College Basketball

Virginia Union upsets Johnson C. Smith with 2nd-half surge

Virginia Union didn’t play much like a two-win team Monday against Johnson C. Smith.

The Panthers delivered an 83-73 CIAA upset at Brayboy Gym against the Golden Bulls, who had a four-game win streak snapped.

Virginia Union (3-10, 2-2) seized control during the second half and pulled away from the Golden Bulls (10-3, 2-1), at one time by as many as 15 points.

“It’s big, especially since we lost one of our teammates (leading scorer Ray Anderson) to injury,” said Panthers guard Avery Jirmnson, who scored 19 points. “We picked it up together and put together a joint team win.”

Virginia Union made it happen with defense, forcing Johnson C. Smith to find perimeter alternatives to center Emilio Parks, who led the Golden Bulls with 19 points but only six in the second half. The task of covering Parks during that stretch fell to Omar Briggs, a 6-foot-8 senior who scored 21 points in 20 minutes.

“He’s a beast,” Virginia Union coach Luqmann Jaaber said of Parks. “He’s a phenomenal player inside and a load when he catches the ball, so at halftime we made some adjustments to just keep the ball out of his hands.

“He was 6-for-7 at halftime. I said just don’t let him catch it.”

Without Parks as an option, J.C. Smith struggled to grab the momentum. Jirmnson scored the first 10 Virginia Union points to open the second half, giving the Panthers a 51-44 lead, and they remained far in front the rest of the way.

“I thought they played extremely well, they did what their coaches asked them to do and executed an excellent game plan,” Golden Bulls coach Steve Joyner said.

“On the other hand, we did not do what we talked about doing.”

J.C. Smith was more efficient from the field during the first half, but Virginia Union fought to tie the score at 41 at the break.

The Golden Bulls connected on 54.5 percent (18-of-33) of their shots, with Parks paving the way with 13 points and 6-of-7 from the floor and reserve forward Markell Lotharp chipping in nine with 4-of-5 shooting.

Virginia Union stayed in the hunt, however, behind Te’Quan Alers’ connecting on all five of his shots for 11 points and a 20-14 rebounding advantage, including an 8-4 discrepancy on the offensive end that resulted in nine second-chance points to a pair for the Golden Bulls.