Fayetteville State showed its maturity while J.C. Smith is looking for some.
The Broncos seized the lead midway through the first half and held off the Golden Bulls 83-77 on Saturday at Brayboy Gym in the CIAA South opener for both teams. Fayetteville State (10-7, 4-3 CIAA) fended off J.C. Smith’s rally down the stretch by remaining calm and answering every Golden Bulls challenge.
“It’s a big win,” said Broncos guard Devin Thompson, who led all scorers with 25 points on 8-of-15 shooting. “It’s the first division game. We’re just happy to come out with a win.”
Fayetteville State earned the victory shooting a respectable 49.2 percent from the floor, including 10-of-25 from beyond the arc to make up for a frigid 15-of-35 from the foul line. Defensively, the Broncos limited J.C. Smith (9-9, 3-4 CIAA) to 40 percent shooting, including 37.1 percent in the second half. The Golden Bulls, who’ve lost two straight, weren’t any better from the free-throw line at 13-of-23.
“It’s easy to point to where we’re letting down and not doing very well,” J.C. Smith coach Steve Joyner said. “We started the ball game off extremely well, ended up with a (12-point) lead and squandered it. We’re still trying to grow, and it’s painful growth.”
Backup forward Markell Lotharp paced J.C. Smith with 19 points on 9-of-15 shooting while Stedmon Lemon added 17, Diondre Pratt 13 and Emilio Parks chipped in 10. The Golden Bulls were undone by Fayetteville State’s inside-out attack, with Thompson leading the way on the perimeter.
“I just felt good tonight,” Thompson said. “I just got open looks and knocked them down.”
J.C. Smith led 24-11 with 9:07 in the first half, but Fayetteville State finished with a 24-9 tear to lead by a pair at the break. The Broncos converted 13-of-28 shots in the half, including 5-of-14 from beyond the arc to make up the early deficit. Thompson led the way with 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting for Fayetteville State while Lotharp led J.C. Smith with eight off the bench.
The Golden Bulls were aggressive in challenging Fayetteville State’s 7-foot center Gatluak Thiep (eight points, nine rebounds, four blocks) early, outscoring Fayetteville State 24-17 in the paint and outrebounding the Broncos 24-17.
“We’re not scoring in the paint,” Joyner said. “Emilio is just not there right now and not having his best semester, and as a consequence we turned to the outside shots and our outside shooters are not doing well.”