College Basketball

J.C. Smith falls to Fayetteville State in CIAA opener

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.”