Lions rally to defeat Eastern N.M., 86-80
Darrell Williams controlled the boards and the paint with his 16th double-double of the season in the Lions 86-80 win over Eastern New Mexico following a 9-0 run midway through the second half sparked a Christian Macauley highlight reel jam Wednesday night in Greyhound Arena in Lone Star action.
The Lions trailed by five at the half, 42-37, to the Greyhounds. ENMU shot 48 percent, held a 19-13 rebounding advantage, had 15 second chance points to none for the Lions and held a 20-18 advantage on points in the paint through the first 20 minutes to take the lead into the locker rooms.
Whatever message A&M-Commerce head coach Sam Walker preached to his team during the break consider it received by the Lions. Led by four of the first six points from Anthony Adams, as the Lions tied the game up at 43 two and half minutes into the half. Adams scored nine of his 13 points in the second half sparking the Lions comeback.
The Lions held the lead for the next three minutes until the Greyhounds turned a 50-47 deficit into a 55-50 lead with 12:34 left to play on an 8-0 run after seven points by ENMU's leading scorer John Gilliam, who finished with a game-high 27 points on 11-of-23 shooting from the floor. Gilliam's 11 made baskets and 23 attempts were both individual highs for a Lion opponent this season.
Cue Macauley and his thunderous posterizing dunk that swung the moment towards the Lions.
De'Andre Carson crossed the half court strip, drove to the left wing and fired a no-look pass right to Macauley's hands down on the left block. Carson eyed down Williams on the play drawing the ENMU defender out of position. Macauley caught the pass, took on step and went up for the one-hand stuff. The Greyhound defender jumped into the air late and out of position only to have Macauley draw the contact and finished the jam through the defender.
Macauely, who finished with 11 points and six rebounds, completed the three-point play. The and-1 sparked the Lions on a 19-6 over the eight minutes to give the Lions an 11-point lead, 72-61, with 4:36 left to play. The 11-point Lion advantage was the largest lead by either team in the contest.
A&M-Commerce held on down the stretch thanks to perfect trips to the free throw line by Carson, LaDon Carnegie and Eddie Leal to preserve the 86-80 win.
The Lions stifled the Greyhounds in the second half holding ENMU to just 39 percent from the floor in the frame. A&M-Commerce finished at 54 percent overall –the third highest shooting percentage of the season for the Lions and the third time in the last three games eclipsing the 50 percent mark. ENMU ended at 45 percent from the floor and 32 percent from three on 9-of-28 shooting from behind the arc. The Lions make four of their 12 long-range attempts for 33 percent. A&M-Commerce, who has now made more free threes than their opponents have attempted in 15 of its 25 games, went 26-of-39 from the free throw line, while ENMU made 13 of their 20 shots from the charity stripe.
The Lions finished with 38 points in the game compared to 28 points for the Greyhounds thanks in part to a team-high 26 points from Williams. The Lions also flipped the tables on the rebounding battle from the first half ending with 38 boards compared to 36 for the Greyhounds. Williams was a huge factor in the turnaround with 13 rebounds in the second half to end with 19 total, one shy of his third 20-rebound game. It was Williams' 21st double-digit game, 16th double-double and 14th game this season with more than 20 points.
Carnegie was the fourth Lion in double figures in his first game back on the hardwood in a week after missing the last two games. Carnegie finished with 11 points.
Trailing Gilliam for the Greyhounds was Chris Wyms, who ended with 16 points. Michael Randle and Demetrius Balark each chipped in 10 points in the losing effort.
The win lifts the Lions to 19-6 overall and 7-4 in the Lone Star Conference. The Lions, who are in the midst of a three-game winning streak, are one win ahead of West Texas A&M for fourth place in the LSC standings. A&M-Commerce has a chance to increase the gap when the Buffs (16-10, 6-6) come to the historic Field House Saturday, February 21 at 6 p.m. A&M-Commerce held on to win the first meeting between the two schools in 2015-14 in Canyon 76-75 back on January 24.
A Saturday would give the Lions their first 20-win season since 2004-05 when the team went 28-5 and advanced to NCAA Regional. It would be the second time the Lions eclipsed the 20-win plateau under head coach Sam Walker in his 15 seasons at the helm. It would be the 15th time program history a Lion team reached the mark dating back to the first 20-win season in 1929-30.