Strong second half propels Lions over Texas A&M-Commerce

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HAMMOND, La. – The Southeastern Louisiana University men’s basketball team hit on 60% of its shots in the second half, leading to a 52-point outburst in the final 20 minutes which helped overcome a good-shooting night from Texas A&M-Commerce as the SLU Lions beat the TAMUC Lions 79-73 Saturday afternoon at the University Center.

A&M-Commerce scored the first six points on two three-pointers before a three by Alec Woodard got the SLU offense in gear as the Lions embarked on a 19-5 run to take their largest lead of the first half with just less than 10 minutes left before halftime at 19-11 on a jump shot by Roger McFarlane.

However, the game flipped back towards TAMUC as the visiting Lions went on a 19-4 run to reclaim a seven-point lead at 30-23 with 1:45 left before halftime. Southeastern finished the half strong, getting buckets from Sami Pissis and Woodard to close out the scoring and cut the deficit to 30-27 at the break.

The 4-0 run to end the first half turned into a 9-0 run in total as Matthew Strange hit a three and a McFarlane steal and layup put SLU in front 32-30 a minute into the second half. Neither team led by more than three points until Nick Caldwell drained a three to put SLU up 53-49 with 12:20 left.

A&M-Commerce answered almost immediately with a three of its own to cut the Southeastern lead back to one point, but a technical foul was called against the player who made the shot. The green and gold took full advantage of the situation as Woodard hit both free throws and then Sami Pissis drained a three-pointer on the ensuing possession to make it a five-point possession for the SLU Lions. That eventually turned into a 7-0 run as an A&M-Commerce miss was followed by a jumper by Woodard to give SLU a 60-52 lead.

The Lions in blue scored the next five to cut the Southeastern lead down to just three, but a pair of Caldwell free throws started a run of eight out of 10 points to the green and gold that was capped by a pair of McFarlane free throws which gave SLU a 68-59 lead with 6:28 left to play.

Commerce made one last run to take the win, going on a 9-2 run to cut the SLU lead to just two points at 70-68 with three minutes left in the game. However, Southeastern would not let it slip away as a pair of Roscoe Eastmond free throws started a run of six straight points by SLU to get the lead back up to eight at 76-68 after a free throw by Sami Pissis with less than 25 seconds left in the game, cementing the win for the green and gold.

“I’m very proud of our guys togetherness and toughness,” said SLU head men’s basketball coach David Kiefer. “We were down a few key players and our guys didn’t flinch. Everyone stepped up and played a huge role. I thought Alec Woodard, Roscoe Eastmond, Roger McFarlane, and Nick Caldwell willed our team to victory. Sami Pissis made a few big baskets late when we needed them as well. We just need to continue to build and get better.”

Of the eight Southeastern players who played, five scored in double figures. They were led by Sami Pissis, who had his best game since leading the Lions to the big comeback win from 20 points down in five minutes against Campbell. He came off the bench and hit six of his seven shots from the field, including two of three from above the arc, to finish with 16 points as well as four rebounds, two assists and a steal.

Woodard and Eastmond both finished with 15 points. Woodard hit six of his eight shot attempts, one of which was a three, grabbed two rebounds and had an assist while Eastmond hit all nine of his free throw attempts, dished out eight assists, snared three rebounds and had two steals.

McFarlane picked up his fourth double-double of the season, and second in a row, as he finished with 14 points and a career high 13 rebounds. He hit five of his nine shot attempts, including two of three from deep, had an assist and a steal. Caldwell rounded out the scoring leaders with 12 points, hitting two three-pointers in the process, grabbed four rebounds and blocked a shot.

While A&M-Commerce hit more shots overall than SLU, 27-26, and more three-pointers, 14-8, than Southeastern, it was SLU’s ability to get to and hit from the charity stripe that proved too much to overcome. The green and gold went 19-of-23 at the free throw line while TAMUC was just five-of-12 at the stripe.

The win helped the Lions (11-9, 5-2 SLC) remain in a tie atop the Southland Conference standings. Southeastern will spend next week starting and ending the season series against New Orleans with UNO coming to Hammond first on Thursday. Tip-off of Thursday’s game against the Privateers (6-12, 3-4 SLC) is set for 7:30 P.M. in the University Center and will be streamed live on ESPN+. The first 250 students to show up to the men’s game will receive a free custom headband.

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