J.C. Smith’s home finale wasn’t for the faint of heart.
The Golden Bulls outlasted CIAA South rival Livingstone 108-106 Saturday at Brayboy Gym in a game of breath-taking offense. J.C. Smith (13-12, 7-7) led by as many as 16 points and hit 70.4 percent of its second-half shots, yet had to withstand a furious Blue Bears rally that closed the gap to a point with 4.4 seconds left.
“We’re happy for the seniors, we’re happy we had a successful night,” JC. Smith coach Steve Joyner said. “We’re certainly not pleased with a second half where Livingstone scored 65 points and we had to score 59.”
Both teams were at peak offensive efficiency, with J.C. Smith connecting on 57.1 percent of its shots (36-of-63) compared to Livingstone’s 51.3 percent (39-of-76). At the end, the Golden Bulls’ ability to get to the free throw line was the difference, with J.C. Smith hitting more attempts (32-of-43) than the Blue Bears tried (20-of-25). The Golden Bulls also took advantage of Livingstone miscues – converting 20 turnovers into 24 points compared to Livingstone’s 16 points off 16 Golden Bulls mistakes.
“We had a couple of chances (to win),” Livingstone coach James Stinson said. “We just turned the basketball over too many times and we’ve been doing it for the past couple of games. When your guards are the ones turning it over, that’s a reason for concern.”
Livingstone guard Ty Newman led all scorers with 29 points on 11-of-18 shooting, including 6-of-8 beyond the arc. Eric Dubose tossed in 27 and Hakeem Jackson added 11.
Five Golden Bulls hit double figures with four scoring at least 20 points. A pair of senior forwards, Markell Lotharp and Emilio Parks led the way with 27 and 22, respectively, while juniors Diondre Pratt and Stedmon Lemon chipped in 21 and 20 off the bench. Freshman point guard Robert Davis continued his recent scoring outburst with 17 points and 10 assists.
“Offensively, we’re scoring enough points to win,” Joyner said. “I’m concerned about our defense. We’re not able to stop people and Livingstone hung in there and kept fighting and made it a tough ball game.”
Pratt and Lotharp gave J.C. Smith a jolt of first-half energy, erupting for 30 of the Golden Bulls’ 49 points at the break. Pratt came off the bench for 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting and four rebounds, with a couple of spectacular dunks that brought the Brayboy partisans to their feet. Lotharp connected on 6-of-9 shots for 16 points, including 2-of-3 from beyond the arc to complement Parks’ eight points in the post.
Newman scored 14 points for Livingstone in the first half on 5-of-9 shooting for the Blue Bears, who hit 18-of-36 shots before intermission.