BELMONT, N.C. – Conference games late in the season are never easy, especially when you are playing on the road, and the King University men's basketball team faced a tough Belmont Abbey College team in their home gym on Wednesday night. The Tornado held a lead, and withstood a Crusader run in the first half, but King couldn't hold off a Belmont Abbey run late in the game as the Crusaders topped the Tornado 89-84.
King (13-11, 10-4 CC) came out firing as Hunter LeVeau sparked an early Tornado run with a triple just over two minutes into the contest. LeVeau connected on back-to-back triples to stretch King's lead to eight before C.J. Good drained at three-point basket five minutes in to give King an 18-7 lead.
Belmont Abbey (10-14, 6-8 CC) started to gradually come back and eventually took a slim 27-26 lead on a Ray Chen jump shot with seven minutes left in the first frame. The contest was then tied three times, the final time at 32 before the Tornado started to pull away. Drew Standifer converted a fastbreak layup following a Michael Fortune steal, and after a Crusader bucket, Nathanael Hughes drilled a three-point basket to give King a four point advantage. Standifer followed with a layup to extend the lead to 40-34 with just more than three minutes left in the half.
Forrest Stuart gave the Tornado an eight point advantage with two minutes left before the teams traded buckets for the remainder of the half. Standifer converted a pair of free throws with four seconds left to give King a 49-41 lead at the break.
Both teams shot the ball well in the first frame, with the home standing Crusaders making a blistering 55.6 percent of their shots while King shot 50.0 percent.
LeVeau opened the second half with another triple to stretch the Tornado lead back to 11 points. After a Crusader triple, Fortune connected from long range to give King a 55-44 lead one minute into the second half. At that point, Belmont Abbey began to cut in to the deficit, whittling it down to three points before the Tornado answered.
Logan Lyle and LeVeau drilled back-to-back three-point baskets to stretch King's lead back nine with less than 13 minutes remaining. The advantage again reached 11 points at 75-64 following a Standifer layup with 10 minutes left before the Crusaders made one last push.
Belmont Abbey scored six straight points before Shamarae Watts converted a free throw with seven minutes left. The Crusaders then scored six straight points to even the score at 76 before LeVeau answered with a three-point basket with five minutes left.
However, Belmont Abbey came back to take an 80-79 lead before Good connected from long range, giving the lead back to King. The contest was then the tied at 82 and 84 before Belmont Abbey's Justin Kuhlman made a three-point basket with one minute left to give the Crusaders the lead. On their final three possessions, King missed a pair of three-point attempts and committed one turnover as the Crusaders iced the 89-84 win with a pair of free throws with six seconds left.
King shot 51.8 percent from the floor in the game, and 42.9 percent from long range while the Crusaders shot 52.7 percent from the floor and 24.0 percent from three-point range.
LeVeau lead four scorers in double figures with 22 points off the bench. Standifer added 18 points off the bench to go along with a team-high nine rebounds. Fortune added 12 points and dished out nine assists, and Good chipped in with 11 points.
Darryl Durham led four Belmont Abbey scorers in double figures with 20 points while Ryan Conrad followed with 17 points. Kuhlman and Chen added 16 and 14 points, respectively.
With the loss, King falls into second place in the Conference Carolinas standings with two games to play with a 10-4 league mark. Barton sits atop the standings with a 12-3 record with one game to play.
King will be in action again on Saturday when they play their final regular season home game when the host Pfeiffer University. Saturday is also Senior Day at the Student Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.