No. 1 Generals overcome slow start, down St. Thomas for ninth-straight win

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Alexandria, La. – A rainstorm of threes saw the No. 1 LSUA men’s basketball team down 17 points in the first half against upset-minded St. Thomas, but the Generals stuck to the game plan and pulled back the Celts to come away with their ninth-straight win, 94-86 Saturday night at The Fort.

After trading two point buckets to get the game started, the three-point party for St. Thomas began as Cameron Gims drained a three to give the Celts a 5-2 lead. That would be the first of nine three-pointers made by St. Thomas in the first 20 minutes, eight coming in the first 12 minutes that helped UST get the largest lead of the game for either team as Nicholas Perez hit from distance to give the Celts a 36-19 advantage.

Having taken the three-point body blow from St. Thomas, the Generals just continued to attack the paint as Malek Harris found his fellow big, William Claiborne for a lay-up on LSUA’s ensuing possession to start a 17-0 LSUA run. During the run, the Generals decided to get in on the three-point party as Chris Vickers, Brandon Ellis, and even Phillip Rankin, Jr. dialed it up from distance and swished them home. The run ended when Donovan Thomas cut inside and dished the ball off to Harris for a lay-up to tie the score at 36-36 with just less than 2:30 left before halftime, marking the game’s first tie since 2-2. However, LSUA still couldn’t sneak in front of the Celts during the first half as St. Thomas got a bucket from Ayo Philips with just seconds left before the break to give the Celts a 43-41 halftime lead.

The first part of the second half started much better for LSUA as the Generals scored the period’s first 13 points. Devin Jackson’s pull-up three just sixty seconds after the second half began represented the game’s only lead change as it gave the Generals a 46-43 advantage, one LSUA would not lose for the remainder of the contest. The run culminated with another Jackson three as Jordan Adebutu set him up in transition to give the Generals a 54-43 lead with 16:32 left in the game.

However, the Celts started to heat up from three again, hitting four of them over the next six minutes to spur a UST run that cut the LSUA lead down to just two points on a Sam Flores triple with 10:30 left that made the score 63-61 LSUA.

Still unfazed, the Generals calmly typed out their response with tighter defense and more three-pointers being hit by Generals, going on a 14-3 run to get the lead back in double figures as Chris Vickers scored while being fouled and converted the three-point play for a 77-64 LSUA lead with 8:08 remaining. The LSUA lead would hit its climax several minutes later on another Malek Harris lay-up with just less than 2:30 left to make it 87-72 Generals.

St. Thomas had one last push in them, scoring the next 11 points quickly to make it just a four point game as Paris Marquez completed a four-point play with 58 seconds remaining. But LSUA kept the Celts at bay, hitting seven of eight free throw attempts inside the last minute and getting enough stops defensively to secure the win.

“This team showed this weekend that it has a lot of fight in it,” said LSUA head coach Larry Cordaro. “St. Thomas was coming off of a big emotional win for them last night and they kept it rolling to start tonight. We started doing a better job getting out on their shooters and that’s when we really made our runs in the game. I again have to commend Jordan Adebutu’s play. He’s been a steady factor for us lately with some other guards out, really shooting the ball well from both the free throw line and from the three-point arc. Now we have to get ready for our big rivalry game this week. We know it’ll be a fun atmosphere in The Fort, it always is but it’s expected to be ramped up a bit on Thursday.”

Jordan Adebutu led the LSUA attack in both points, with 17, and assists, with six. William Claiborne notched his second double-double of the season with 15 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Phillip Rankin, Jr. hit two three-point attempts in the contest on his way to 13 points, six rebounds, and a blocked shot. Malek Harris hit six of his seven field goal attempts for 12 points to go along with five assists, four rebounds, and a blocked shot. Chris Vickers rounded out the leading scorers with ten points and six rebounds.

LSUA finished the game hitting 51.5% from the field, including 11 of 23 from above the three-point arc. The Generals also enjoyed a decided advantage at the charity stripe, thanks in part to the shot selection of each team. While LSUA only had a six-point advantage in points in the paint, 40-34, the Generals went to the free throw line 16 more times than the Celts did, getting a plus-11 in free throws made. For their part, St. Thomas (12-6, 4-3 RRAC) made five more three-pointers than the Generals did in the game, 16-11, but the Celts were just 36.4% from deep. More than half of St. Thomas’s shot attempts in the game came from beyond the arc.

The #1 Generals (17-2, 7-1 RRAC) close out the first half of conference play on Thursday night as in-state rival LSU Shreveport comes to town. Tip-off against the Pilots (12-8, 5-3 RRAC), who received votes in the latest NAIA Top 25 Poll, is set for 7:00 P.M. in The Fort and can be heard locally on ESPN 94.7 FM.

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