Lamar Kearse had the answer for every challenge Virginia State faced.
The guard tossed in 22 points, including 18 on 3-point shots, in the Trojans’ 74-63 CIAA win Monday against J.C. Smith at Brayboy Gym to halt the Golden Bulls’ three-game winning streak. Kearse, who connected on eight of 17 shots, dazzled from behind the arc at 6-of-9, especially when Virginia State (10-5, 4-2) needed points as the shot clock wound down.
“I wanted to make plays to help my team win,” he said. “That’s the moments I want as a leader of this team. I want to be in the position where I believe every shot is going in.”
Kearse did his part during the second half to put Virginia State in position to pull away from J.C. Smith, which never led and was tied twice. With the score 48-all, he hit a long jumper to put the Trojans in front for good, followed by a 3-pointer to create a 55-48 bulge. The Golden Bulls (9-8, 3-3) couldn’t answer as Virginia State’s defense limited them to 39.1 percent shooting in the second half (9-of-23).
“Virginia State was that much better,” J.C. Smith coach Steve Joyner said. “They were intense from the beginning to the end. We ebbed and flowed.”
Four Trojans hit double figures, with Alphonso Leary adding 14 points, Elijah Moore 13 and reserve Te’Quan Alers 10. J.C. Smith forward Stedmon Lemon paced all scorers with 23 points with 7-of-10 shooting and 5-of-5 from beyond the arc, backed by 13 from Emilio Parks and 10 by Diondre Pratt.
Virginia State was especially efficient inside, where front-court players Tyrece Little, Moore and Alers helped build a 42-31 rebound disparity. The Trojans outscored J.C. Smith 19-3 on second-chance points and 30-24 in the paint.
“Their size was to their advantage,” Joyner said. “We’d block out and hold them the one shot, but we’d do something to give them another opportunity. We’ve got to learn to play against a good, strong team like Virginia State.”
Virginia State started strong and led 33-31 at halftime behind Kearse, who led the way with 11 points with 3-of-5 shooting from 3-point range, followed by Alers’ eight. Despite shooting 35.1 percent, Virginia State made up for it by beating J.C. Smith on the boards by a 25-18 margin, including 10 on the offensive end.
Lemon paced the Golden Bulls with 10 points with 3-of-5 shooting, and Parks and Pratt combined for another 17. J.C. Smith created access to the basket by driving to the paint to forced Virginia State to foul but converted only seven of 14 free throws compared to the Trojans’ 3-of-4.