HARTSVILLE, S.C. – The Anderson men's basketball team erased a double-digit first-half deficit, but ultimately dropped a 78-72 decision to South Atlantic Conference-opponent Coker, Saturday afternoon at the DeLoach Center.
Anderson slipped to 5-12 overall and 3-6 in conference action, while Coker (8-9, 5-4 SAC) snapped a two-game skid with the victory.
INSIDE THE BOX SCORE
Junior guard Gage Ellis, who averaged 15 points over the previous two games, poured in a game-high 27 points and added four rebounds, three assists and swiped three steals. Junior forward Jeremy Bouton netted 13 points and pulled down seven rebounds, with senior center Rakish Taylor nearly posting his first double-double of the season with 10 points and nine boards.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Cobras opened the contest by nailing back-to-back treys and while the Trojans were 4-of-8 from the field in the opening six minutes, they struggled (0-for-4) from long range, while Coker was 6-of-9 and connected on their first three 3-point attempts en route to taking a 15-6 lead with 14:14 on the clock.
Less than three minutes later, the Cobras built their largest lead of the game, at 19-9, on a jumper by freshman Dakota Jennings, but a pair of free throws by Jeremy Bouton at the 11:15 mark sparked a 15-4 scoring outburst that saw the Trojans knot the score at 24 apiece with just more than six minutes left in the half. Ellis, Bouton and fellow junior Andrew Boynton each dropped in four points over the five-minute span to fuel the comeback.
Coker responded with three quick points, but freshman Myliek Durham canned a pair of free throws and Ellis followed by knocking down a jumper to give the Trojans their first lead of the afternoon, 28-27, with just less than three minutes remaining in the opening half.
The lead changed three times over the final moments, with the Cobras staking a slim 34-33 edge at intermission.
Taylor and Ellis combined to give AU a 37-34 advantage less than two minutes into the second half – giving the Trojans their largest lead of the game, and with the score deadlocked at 41-41 with 14:42 on the clock, the Cobras scored seven unanswered points to reclaim the lead. After another Ellis jumper trimmed the deficit to just three, Coker stretched its lead back to 57-49 and looked poised to pull away midway through the second half but AU went on an 11-4 run behind four points apiece from Ellis and Durham, with Bouton capping the surge with his lone 3-pointer of the afternoon.
Following a layup by the Cobras' Larry Cooper, Bouton answered with another jumper and Taylor dropped in a pair of free throws to give AU a 64-63 lead at the 5:18 mark, only to see the Cobras rebuild a three-point advantage on back-to-back jumpers. The Trojans responded with four consecutive free throws, while Coker countered with four straight of its own from the charity stripe and still held a 71-68 lead with 2:48 remaining.
Twenty seconds later, Taylor worked inside to cut the Cobra lead to just one, but AU was unable to overtake the Cobras, who made just enough free throws (4-of-6) inside the final two minutes to hold off the Trojans.
ANDERSON STAT OF THE DAY
By going 21-for-24 at the free throw line, the Trojans equaled their best free-throw accuracy of the season (87.5%).
• The Trojans committed 16 turnovers on the day, but just five in the second half.
• AU won the rebounding battle, 45-42.
• The score was tied eight times, including six times in the second half.
• There were 14 lead changes – 10 in the second half.
• After being outrebounded in eight consecutive games, the Trojans have outrebounded their last two opponents (Mars Hill and Coker).
• Gage Ellis has reached double-figure scoring in eight straight games.
• Both teams struggled from long range in the first half - After connecting on their first three 3-point field goal attempts, the Cobras misfired on final eight 3-point field goal attempts of the first half … The Trojans were 2-of-10 from the arc in the opening 20 minutes.
The Trojans wrap up the first half of their double round-robin conference slate at Tusculum on Wednesday. Tip-off versus the Pioneers is scheduled for 8 p.m. in Greeneville, Tenn.