January 21, 2014

King tops Belmont Abbey in another nail biter

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Another day, another close game for the King University men's basketball team as they went blow-for-blow with Belmont Abbey College. The Tornado came away with another narrow Conference Carolinas win, topping Crusaders 75-71 in the Student Center Complex to stretch their winning streak to five games.

King (9-8, 6-1 CC) grabbed the early lead and held a 7-2 lead following a Logan Lyle three-point basket three minutes into the game. The Crusaders (6-11, 2-5 CC) responded and cut the deficit to 9-8 two minutes later following a Drexler Clark triple.

Shamarae Watts answered Clark's triple with one of his own to start a 9-0 Tornado run. Scottie Hendricks and Michael Fortune connected on back-to-back three-point baskets to complete the spurt and stretch the lead to 18-8 with more than 12 minutes left in the first half. Nevertheless, Belmont Abbey scored five straight points to cut their deficit in half as they started to work their way back.

King held a nine point advantage following a Drew Standifer layup with four minutes left in the first frame before the Crusaders went on a run. Belmont Abbey scored six straight points, making the score 30-27 with 1:22 left in the first half. Lyle ended King's drought of nearly four minutes without a basket as he tipped in a missed three-point basket as time expired to give King a 32-27 halftime lead.

Both teams got hot from long range to start the second half. King made their first three attempts from long range, the first two from Lyle while the Crusaders knocked down a pair as King held a 41-35 lead two minutes in. Belmont Abbey cut their deficit to 41-38 three minutes in, but the Tornado had an answer.

James Scales connected on his lone three-point basket of the game, and Watts followed with another triple to stretch the lead back to 47-38 with more than 15 minutes to go. The Tornado advantage grew to 10 points following a Nathanael Hughes layup before Hunter LeVeau gave King their largest lead of the game, 56-45 with 12 minutes left.

The Crusaders then started to come back as they cut the deficit to 60-55 before Lyle connected on a jump shot. Belmont Abbey followed that bucket with five straight points to make the score 62-60 with just more than eight minutes remaining. A pair of Chris Davis free throws cut the deficit back to one with 5:28 leaf before Standifer threw down a dunk to stretch the King lead back to three.

The lead was again cut to one with 3:57 left, but Scales answered with a layup, and was fouled. He made the free throw to stretch the King lead back to four. The Tornado were clinging to a 72-70 with less than one minute left and the shot clock was running down when Fortune started to drive off the right wing. When he got the edge of the lane, he spotted Lyle in the corner spotting up for three. With four seconds on the shot clock, and 36 on the game clock, his three tickled the twin to give King a 75-70 lead.

The Crusaders then made one of two free throws on the next possession before King got a pair of steals to seal the 75-71 triumph. The Tornado shot 53.8 percent from the floor while shooting 45.2 percent from long range while Belmont Abbey shot 46.5 percent from the floor and 38.1 percent from three-point range. The Crusaders were also 23-for-32 from the free throw line while King was 5-for-9 from the charity stripe.

Lyle led King with 19 points while Scales followed with 12 and Fortune added 10. Watts led King with five rebounds.

Ryan Conrad led four Crusader scorers in double figures with 23 points, and Davis followed with 16 points.

King will be in action again on Saturday when they travel to Lees-McRae College. Tipoff from Banner Elk, N.C., is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.