Lions take Win over hoops power Vinceenes
VINCENNES, Ind. — The Lions of East Mississippi Community College made their mark on the NJCAA men’s basketball scene this past weekend by knocking off traditional powerhouse Vincennes University by double figures and taking nationally third-ranked John A. Logan College down to the wire in the VU-hosted McDonald’s Classic played at the Physical Education Complex on the Vincennes campus.
After claiming a commanding 64-50 road win over 2018-19 NJCAA Champion Vincennes during Friday’s tournament action, EMCC then led No. 3 John A. Logan most of the game the following night before dropping a hard-fought 80-76 decision.
Against host Vincennes, the Lions utilized their full-court press from the opening tip-off to force some early turnovers and convert them into easy baskets. Their defensive intensity and hot three-point shooting in the opening half helped create a 15-point cushion (23-8) midway through the contest. With six made treys during the first 20 minutes of play and holding VU to 9-of-24 (38%) first-half shooting, the visiting Lions grabbed a 36-22 halftime lead.
After intermission, EMCC lengthened the lead to 20 points (42-22) three minutes into the second half on a Jakorie Smith 3-pointer followed by Chris Newell’s three-point play. The visitors maintained their 20-point advantage during most of the second stanza, extending the lead to 24 points (64-40) with 3:36 remaining in the contest. Vincennes scored the final 10 points of the game to account for the 14-point final outcome.
Highlighted by 16 first-half points, EMCC’s Blake Butler led all scorers with a career-high 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting from the field. Smith followed with 11 points and seven rebounds, while Nick Walker added eight points and a dozen boards for the winners.
On Saturday against third-ranked John A. Logan College, the Lions rode the momentum from the previous night and established command from the opening tip-off in jumping out to an early 19-6 lead six minutes into the game. Later in the half, Smith’s put-back basket gave EMCC its biggest lead (36-21) of the game with seven minutes remaining in the opening half.
Powered by the 1-2 scoring punch of NCAA Division I transfers Sean East (Bradley) and Cobie Barnes (Indiana State), the JALC Volunteers answered with eight straight points to cut the deficit to seven points (36-29) by the 6:11 mark. EMCC responded with a Walker reverse layup and Traemond Pittman’s spin move to the basket to bump the margin back up to an 11-point lead that the Lions would take to the locker room at the halftime break.
The 46-35 halftime lead was primarily the product of EMCC’s red-hot first-half shooting. Along with making 17-of-26 (65%) first-half field goals, including 4-of-5 three-point shots, the Lions connected on 8-of-11 (73%) free throws during the opening 20 minutes of action.
With the continued combined scoring efforts of East and Barnes, John A. Logan chipped away at EMCC’s double-digit lead throughout the second stanza. After Barnes’ basket gave the Vols their first lead (64-63) of the game at the 5:50 mark, two more lead changes followed before they took control during the closing four minutes of play.
East’s pull-up jumper and Tujauntae Williams’ three-point play put Logan in front for good. The Volunteers then benefitted from 9-of-10 free throw shooting over the game’s final 1:40 to build a seven-point lead down the stretch. Pittman’s 3-pointer at the game-ending buzzer accounted for the four-point final margin.
The Lions’ balanced scoring effort produced five double-figure scorers, led by Smith and Butler with 18 and 15 points, respectively. Walker followed by registering his eighth career double-double and third of the young season with 14 points (7-9 FGs) and 12 rebounds. Pittman and JaQuevias Tarvin added 10 points apiece for the Lions.
Coach Billy Begley’s 3-2 EMCC Lions return to MACCC competition by playing host to the Hinds Bulldogs on Thursday (Nov. 18). Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. at Keyes T. Currie Coliseum on the Scooba campus.