BRISTOL, Tenn. – In one of the biggest games up to this point in the season, the King University men's basketball team held on to the top spot in the Conference Carolinas standings. Behind the tenacity of Shamarae Watts, who set career-highs in points and rebounds, the Tornado topped the University of Mount Olive 115-95.
The Trojans (13-8, 7-4 CC) jumped ahead early, and held a 13-9 lead before the King offense started to click. Logan Lyle sparked a barrage of triples with his first of five three-point baskets in the game. James Scales and C.J. Good followed with back-to-back triples to give King (12-9, 9-2 CC) an 18-13 lead.
Mount Olive came back and got within three before Lyle struck with another from long range and Malcolm St. Louis converted a layup. Michael Fortune then nailed a three from well beyond the arc to force a Trojan timeout with King leading 28-17 nine minutes into the contest. After a Trojan bucket, Hunter LeVeau drilled a triple before Brandon Crompton made a pair of free throws. LeVeau then made three straight three-point baskets to cap the 33-8 run that gave King a 42-21 lead with seven minutes left in the frame.
The Tornado closed out the final four minutes of the half on a 13-4 run. Drew Standifer started the spurt with an old fashioned three-point play before Good drained another triple. Watts converted a tip-in before LeVeau made three-point basket with 18 seconds left to give King a commanding 60-35 lead at halftime.
King shot a blistering 59.5 percent from the field and 59.1 percent from three in the first half while holding Mount Olive to 35.5 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from long range. Watts already had a career-high with 11 rebounds in the first fame.
However, the Trojans came out in the second half on a roll as they outscored King 16-6 over the first four and one half minutes of the half to cut their deficit to 66-51, but LeVeau answered with another triple to extend the lead. The Tornado lead reached 21 at 73-52 following another LeVeau three-point basket before Mount Olive made a run.
Mount Olive first scored five straight points before LeVeau hit a pair of free throws. The Trojans then got hot from long range, scoring eight straight points before they capped the 18-5 run with a five consecutive points. A John Wieland three-point basket ended the run, and cut the Trojan deficit to 78-71 with 10:32 remaining.
However, Lyle brought momentum back to King's side, drilled consecutive three-point baskets. The Tornado advantage stretched their back to 17 following a Watts triple with just more than seven minutes remaining before Mount Olive went on another run, to whittle the Tornado lead back down to 10 points.
Nevertheless, that was as close as the Trojans would get as Watts answered with a three-point play, and later hit a three-point basket with more than four minutes left to give King a 104-87 lead. Good nailed another triple before King iced the 115-95 win at the free throw line.
The Tornado turned in their best three-point shooting performance of the season, making a season-best 60.0 percent (21-for-35) of their three-point attempts. It also marked the fourth time King has made at least 20 three-point baskets in a game this season. Overall King shot 58.1 percent from the floor, their second-best output this season. King also went 22-for-28 from the free throw line for a 78.6 percentage.
On the other end, Mount Olive shot 41.2 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from three-point range. Dontrelle Brite and Kendall Hargove led four Trojans in double figures with 17 point apiece.
For King, LeVeau matched his career-high of 27 points, going 9-for-11 from the field and 7-for-9 from long range to lead five scorers in double figures. Watts followed with career-highs of 20 points and 16 rebounds for his second double-double of the season. The junior went 7-for-7 from the floor, and made both of his three-point attempts. Lyle added 19 while Good scored 14 points and St. Louis chipped in with 10 points. Fortuned dished out nine assists while Good handed out a career-best eight dimes.
King will be in action again on Monday when they host North Greenville University. It is First Responder Night at the Student Center Complex, all first responders and their families receive free admission to the doubleheader. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.