BELMONT J.C. Smith is putting its character to good use.
The Golden Bulls outscored Belmont Abbey 29-18 over the final nine minutes in an 81-80 win Saturday at Wheeler Athletic Center, their third straight victory against the Crusaders.
After falling behind 56-52 with 14:09 left, J.C. Smith responded by slashing into the lane on offense and pressuring the ball on defense to seize the momentum.
“I think we showed a different character, especially when the game got tough in the second half,” Golden Bulls coach Steve Joyner said. “I thought the guys showed a lot of character to find a way to fight back and win.”
J.C. Smith pulled away by beating the Crusaders off the dribble and getting into the lane. Forward Emilio Parks continued his run of inside productivity with a game-high 30 points on 12-of-16 shooting, but he had lots of help on the offensive end. Guard LaMarquis Letchaw and swingman Robert Williams scored 18 and 17 points, while forward Antwan Wilkerson scored all 14 of his points in the second half.
“I thought Antwan really came alive in the second half and played with a lot of understanding,” Joyner said. “He stopped depending on the jump shot and started trying to get to the basket and it led to his jump shot coming around later on.”
As efficient as J.C. Smith was on offense in the second half (58.6 percent shooting), the Golden Bulls’ defense was equal to the task, limiting Belmont Abbey to 40.6 percent after the break while forcing 12 of the Crusaders’ 20 turnovers.
“Our man-to-man defense was good for us,” Joyner said. “We didn’t go for ball fakes and those kinds of things and stood our ground. Our defense was very, very good and it led to some run-outs and some easy buckets for us.”
Belmont Abbey (4-8) fell behind 17-5 in the first six minutes, but climbed into the lead early in the second half behind Chris Davis and Darryl Durham, who scored 22 and 16 points. But J.C. Smith’s consistency made the difference down the stretch.
“They did punch us in the mouth to start off, but we did respond well,” Crusaders coach Stephen Miss said. “We came back and had what I thought was a little bit of momentum in the second half and we were playing pretty well. Then we hit one of those stretches where we get foul trouble and get a little funky with our matchups and lineups and we’re not fighting through and finding a way to finish plays.”
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