The men's basketball team of Texas A&M University-Commerce took a three-day weekend trip through Arkansas Friday through Sunday, matching up with two Great American Conference opponents. The Lions finished the weekend series well, winning both games and improving to 8-0 on the season. What follows are the summaries from each game.
A&M-Commerce 96, Southern Arkansas 78
W.T. Watson Center – Magnolia, Ark. – Friday, Nov. 29 – 7 p.m.
Records: A&M-Commerce (7-0); Southern Arkansas (2-4)
A&M-Commerce showed no effect of a nine-day layoff, scoring 17 of the first 19 points on the evening as the Lions routed Southern Arkansas 96-78 at the W.T. Watson Center on Friday, Nov. 29. It continued the Lions' dominance of the Muleriders as A&M-Commerce won its 12th-straight against Southern Arkansas and improved to 16-2 all-time against the Muleriders under head coach Sam Walker.
Five players finished in double figures for A&M-Commerce as the Lions shot an impressive 60.4 percent from the floor, including 58.8 percent from beyond the three-point arc (10-of-17). LaDon Carnegie led the way with 18 points, hitting six of his nine shots from the floor, while adding five rebounds, a pair of assists and a pair of steals.
Daniel Ehambe set a career-high with 15 points on the night, shattering his previous best of six points, as the senior went six-of-eight from the floor, including two-of-three from three-point range. Christian Macauley notched his second career double-double, finishing with 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Lions while Kameron Price and Eddie Leal each notched 10 points in the victory.
De'Andre Carson dished out a team-high four assists to complement his four points while Price added three helpers on the night with a team-best three steals. Devondrick Walker added eight points, three rebounds and a pair of steals off the bench to help spark the Lions.
Any concerns about a possible post-Thanksgiving letdown were quickly thwarted as A&M-Commerce seized control of the game early and never let up. Through the first five minutes of the opening half, six different Lions recorded points as A&M-Commerce raced out to a 17-2 lead and the lead never dipped below double digits for the remainder of the evening.
The Lions continued to distance themselves from the Muleriders throughout the half, building a 23-point advantage at 37-14 with five minutes remaining in the opening stanza. A&M-Commerce would push that lead to 24 at 40-16 with 4:41 to go before Southern Arkansas put together a mini-run of its own, outscoring the Lions 12-2 to pull to within 14 at 42-28.
A&M-Commerce pushed the lead back to 18 at 47-29 in the waning seconds before a three-pointer at the buzzer by the Muleriders shortened the deficit to 15 at 47-32.
With a substantial lead, A&M-Commerce kept to its game plan and kept Southern Arkansas at bay for the duration of the second half. The Lions pushed their advantage to 23 at 69-46 and stayed well in front of the Muleriders for the final 10 minutes. The closest Southern Arkansas could trim the lead was to 12 at 87-75 with just under three minutes remaining, but A&M-Commerce kept up the intensity, cruising to the 96-78 victory.
A&M-Commerce 75, Henderson State 74
Duke Wells Center – Arkadelphia, Ark. – Saturday, Nov. 30 – 7 p.m.
Records: A&M-Commerce (8-0); Henderson State (4-4)
Up Next: at Northwood – Tuesday, Dec. 3 – 7 p.m. – Cedar Hill
A&M-Commerce faced its toughest challenge of the season to date as the Lions found themselves locked in a back-and-forth dual with Henderson State Saturday evening in Arkadelphia. But as it has done all season, A&M-Commerce came up with the key shots when it counted and the Lions outlasted the Reddies 75-74 at the Duke Wells Center, improving to 8-0 on the year.
The victory matches A&M-Commerce's second-best start to a season, pulling even with the 8-0 start the 1953-54 squad matched en route to advancing to the NAIA quarterfinals. The Lions are two games off the pace of the 1947-48 team, who started off the year with a 10-0 mark.
A&M-Commerce was led on the night by senior Devondrick Walker, who had arguably one of his best games in a Lion uniform. Walker finished with 19 points off the bench, hitting seven of his eight shots from the floor, including a perfect five-for-five from three-point range, while also notching four rebounds for A&M-Commerce.
Freshman De'Andre Carson recorded 13 points for the Lions, including nine during a two-minute span midway through the second half to help A&M-Commerce rally from a six-point deficit. Carson also led the Lions with four assists and three steals while pulling down four rebounds.
LaDon Carnegie and Tyrie Wooten both notched nine points on the evening and Carnegie also pulled down seven rebounds to lead the Lions. Christian Macauley had another impressive performance, recording a career-best six blocks against Henderson State with five points and five rebounds. Daniel Ehambe added seven points with Kameron Price and Cameron Blue both finishing five, combining for 11 rebounds.
One night after a blowout victory at Southern Arkansas, A&M-Commerce started off its game against Henderson State in similar fashion, racing out to a 10-4 lead in the opening minutes. But unlike Friday night, the Reddies were able to find their scoring touch, using an extended 21-5 run to pull ahead by nine at 24-15 with 7:35 remaining in the half.
But as it has done all season, A&M-Commerce found a way to scratch its way back into the game, using a 9-0 run of its own, spearheaded by back-to-back threes from Wooten, pulling even with the Reddies at 24-24 with six minutes remaining in the half.
It set up a back-and-forth affair over the final minutes as the two teams combined for three ties and three lead changes, capped by a pair of free throws by Carson to give A&M-Commerce the 33-31 halftime advantage.
Henderson State came out firing early in the second half, outscoring A&M-Commerce 15-2 over the opening five minutes to extend its lead to a game-high 11 at 46-35. The Lions would chip away at that deficit, pulling to within one at 52-51 with 9:42 remaining in the game, only to see the Reddies pull back ahead by six at 57-51 at the 8:57 mark.
Trailing by six, Carson made his impact felt as the freshman scored nine of the Lions' next 12 points, sandwiching a three-pointer from Walker, including a pair of steals as A&M-Commerce outscored Henderson State 12-2 over a two-minute span, pulling ahead by four at 63-59 with 6:20 remaining. The Lions then extended that run to 17-4 off another three from Walker as A&M-Commerce built its largest lead of the game at 68-61 with 4:45 left on the clock.
That set up another back-and-forth duel over the final five minutes which could help define the Lions' 2013-14 season. Henderson State outscored A&M-Commerce 13-3 to pull back in front 74-71 with 47 seconds remaining. But a three-pointer from Walker with 27 seconds left knotted the game at 74-74, followed by a block from Macauley that gave the ball back to the Lions in the waning seconds.
A Reddie foul sent Carnegie to the line, where he hit one of two free throw attempts, and then the Lion defense stepped up in the game's biggest moment as Henderson State's Taylor Smith was unable to get a clean look at the basket, missing the potential game-winning three point attempt as time expired. The Lions prevailed with a 75-74 road victory.
A&M-Commerce ended the game shooting 41.5 percent from the floor, including hitting 11 of its 23 three-point attempts (47.8 percent) while going 10-of-17 from the free throw line (58.8 percent). Henderson State was a tad bit better from the floor, shooting 44.4 percent, but hit just 38.5 percent from three-point range and just 57.1 percent from the foul line.
With the victory, the Lions extend their winning streak over the Reddies to eight-straight games dating back to the 1995-96 season. Head coach Sam Walker improved to 4-0 all-time against Henderson State. The Lions' head man has now won 18 of his last 19 games against opponents from the state of Arkansas.
A&M-Commerce continues its four-game road trip with a pair of games in the Metroplex this coming week. The Lions start off with a Tuesday evening showdown with Northwood in Cedar Hill. Opening tip against the Knights is set for 7 p.m.