ANDERSON, S.C. – The Anderson men’s basketball team erased a one-point halftime deficit with 10 unanswered points to start the second half, as the Trojans opened a two-game South Atlantic Conference homestand by topping Catawba, 81-61, Saturday afternoon at the Abney Athletic Center.
Anderson (17-6, 12-5 SAC) has won eight of its last nine overall and nine straight past Catawba, while maintaining a share of second place with Carson-Newman in the league standings. Catawba (6-15, 6-11 SAC) suffered its fifth loss in its last six outings.
“The big difference was that we started the second half with [several] defensive stops,” said Anderson head coach Jason Taylor. “We also starting guarding the post better. Collectively, it was a good overall team win.”
The Trojans held a 48-36 advantage in the battle of the boards, while pulling down 17 offensive rebounds, and converted 16 Catawba turnovers into 15 points. Neither team was hot from the field, with Anderson shooting 37.7 percent on the afternoon, while the Indians were 20-of-58 for 34.5 percent. But the Trojans were 24-of-27 (88.9 percent) from the free throw line for their second-highest accuracy of the season.
Senior guard Chandler Hash led all scorers with 22 points, while handing out two assists and grabbing three steals. Senior guard CJ Gleaton added 15 points, with junior guard Myson Jones chipping in 13 points and swiping two steals. Junior center Chris Ross tallied 11 points and a game-high eight rebounds, while senior forward Kyle Sledge equaled a career high with four assists.
Catawba sophomore Elon Edwards led three Indians in double figures with 17 points. Preseason First-Team All-SAC selection Tyrece Little netted 13 points, while sophomore forward Julian Sampah chipped in 10 points.
With both teams looking to shake off the rust from a weeklong layoff and playing the first of three games in a seven-day span, the Trojans scored the first five points of the game, with Gleaton scoring on a short jumper and Jones following less than a minute later with the first of his three 3-pointers on the day.
But the Indians stayed close, as the first half featured nine ties and seven lead changes, with Catawba garnering its first lead of the game, at 23-22, on a 3-pointer from Edwards with just more than five minutes left in the opening half. Less than three minutes later sophomore guard Kijuan Arrington gave Catawba its largest lead of the game, 29-26, with his traditional three-point play.
Catawba still held a three-point lead with less than a minute left in the frame, before Hash trimmed the Indians’ cushion to just 33-32 with a pair of free throws just before intermission.
The Trojans erupted with 10 unanswered points to open the second half, as Gleaton opened the stanza with a short jumper and Jones sandwiched a pair of 3-pointers around a basket from Hash, as AU claimed a lead it would not relinquish, at 42-33, with 18:01 remaining in the contest.
With Anderson holding a 13-point advantage, the Indians sliced AU’s lead to just 54-49 midway through the half, but it was as close as the visitors would get, as Hash stemmed the Catawba run with two from the line.
Anderson reclaimed the double-digit cushion on two Gleaton free throws and steadily pulled away in the final minutes.
Anderson will look to win its fifth straight home game as the Trojans wrap up the two-game homestand with Mars Hill invading the Abney Athletic Center on Monday at 8 p.m. The game will be a rematch of an earlier contest that saw AU hold off the Lions, 79-70, in Mars Hill, N.C.