J.C. Smith is building new character without its best player.
The Golden Bulls beat Rollins (Fla.) 64-59 in the Tip-Off Classic at Brayboy Gym on Saturday, their second straight win after losing all-CIAA forward Emilio Parks to a season-ending knee injury. After trailing 29-25 at halftime, J.C. Smith rallied behind Josh Linson and Markell Lotharp, who combined for 24 of the Golden Bulls 39 second half points. Linson, a junior guard, was especially potent by nailing 5-of-9 three-point shots after the break to finish with a game-high 15 points.
“It was a character half for us,” J.C. Smith coach Steve Joyner said. “We had to show some character and will to win, and I thought Josh, even though he had a couple of lucky shots, it was the character that he had to take the three.”
Linson went 0-for-5 in the first-half – all from beyond the arc – but found his stroke on four straight possessions to lift the Golden Bulls from a 53-51 deficit to a 63-57 advantage.
“My coaches and teammates, they kept faith in me,” Linson said. “They kept telling me to keep shooting the ball, so I listened to my teammates. This is what I’ve been practicing all my life – working on my jump shot.”
Linson and Lotharp (11 points, four rebounds) combined on the game’s pivotal play. Lotharp blocked a Rollins shot to start a fast break that Linson finished with a three-pointer from 25 feet to put the Golden Bulls ahead 57-53. That sequence turned the momentum in J.C. Smith’s favor.
“Markell’s block was huge,” Linson said. “Great hustle. That’s what he does. It was a great play. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have gotten that shot off.”
Scott Scheutte paced Rollins (2-3) with 14 points, and Chris Uhle added 11 for the Tars, who connected on 40.4 percent of their shots (23-of-57). Stedmon Lemon chipped in 13 points for J.C. Smith, which hit 48.3 percent of its second half shots (14-of-29) compared to 33.3 (10-of-30) before intermission.
“I thought it was a tale of two halves,” Joyner said. “We started out the first five minutes of the ball game ready to play, but then we became lethargic on the court and wound up being down at the half. We thought we needed attitude adjustment, we needed to stay together and fight for the game a little bit more.”