BRISTOL, Tenn. – The King University men's basketball team fought off a comeback attempt for the ages by North Greenville University, holding on to win a hotly-contested 86-85 game that featured a 36-18 run by the Crusaders over the final 8:22. With the win, King's lead over Barton College atop the Conference Carolinas standings stretches to a full game.
King (13-9, 10-2 Conference Carolinas) led 84-80 after Michael Fortune drained a pair of free throws with 40 seconds remaining. North Greenville's Keith Johnson answered with an immediate layup to pull the Crusaders (12-11, 5-7 Conference Carolinas) back within two points. Two C.J. Good free throws with 16 ticks left pushed King's advantage back to four points, and the Tornado appeared to have the victory all but locked up when Shamarae Watts sent the Student Center into a frenzy with his thunderous block of a Micah Parker three-point attempt.
But Thomas Horn would drain a shot from long distance to pull North Greenville within a point with 3.8 seconds remaining. The Tornado then threw away the inbounds attempt, giving North Greenville the ball under their own basket and 3.8 seconds in which to make a game-winning shot. The inbounds pass went to the top of the key, where Thomas Horn dribbled right and lofted a three-pointer that was just wide of the mark, and the Tornado escaped with a victory by the narrowest of margins.
North Greenville fought back from a seemingly insurmountable deficit, ending the game on a 36-18 run over the final 8:22 of play to turn a 68-49 runaway that represented King's largest lead of the game into an 86-85 nailbiter. The Crusaders made 10 of their final 12 field goal attempts during their run, at one point draining nine consecutive shots, and went 12-of-14 from the free throw line over the final eight minutes.
King had remained in control throughout much of the evening. The Tornado led from the 16:48 mark of the first half to the final buzzer in a game that featured just one tie and one lead change. King's lead had fluctuated between six and ten points for much of the game until a Logan Lyle three-pointer keyed a 12-0 run over a 2:48 span near the midway point of the second half made the lead 64-45.
Lyle led the team in scoring for the tenth time this season, finishing with 17 points and five rebounds. C.J. Good added 16 points but made only two three-pointers among his six field goals, a rarity for the nation's 11th-leading shooter in three-point field goal efficiency. Fortune had 12 points and three steals to go along with four of King's 15 assists, while Hunter LeVeau pulled down six rebounds. The Tornado were able to limit North Greenville's Phillip Brown, who leads the nation with 13.2 rebounds per contest, to just six boards on the night.
The Crusaders had three players score in double figures, including Keith Johnson and Thomas Horn who led all scorers with 22 points each. The duo combined to score 20 of North Greenville's final 38 points in the Crusaders' valiant comeback effort. Johnson also turned in a game-high six assists and was 12-of-13 from the free throw line. The Crusaders were 24-of-28 effort at the charity stripe, shooting at an 85.7 percent clip.
The Tornado bench outscored North Greenville's reserves 39-24 and held a 27-13 advantage in points off turnovers. King's hot second-half shooting was key to holding off the hard-charging Crusaders as the Tornado made 51.9 percent of their second-half field goal attempts.
The Tornado will have a chance to rest, with no midweek game coming on the heels of playing two league contests in three days. King returns to the court on Saturday, February 15 against Limestone College, which currently sits in second place in the conference standings. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.