WINGATE, N.C. – Paced by junior Jeremy Bouton's season-high 24 points, the Anderson men's basketball team captured a key South Atlantic Conference victory by knocking off Wingate, 76-71, Saturday afternoon at Cuddy Arena.
Anderson improved to 9-17 overall and 7-11 in conference play with its second straight win, while defeating the Bulldogs for the first time since the 2014-15 campaign. Wingate fell to 13-13 overall and 10-8 in league action with its third loss in four outings.
INSIDE THE BOX SCORE
Bouton's season-high effort was just one point shy of his career-best 25 points, which he set at Queens nearly a year ago. Junior guard Gage Ellis added 16 points and equaled a season-high with five steals, while senior Maurice Howard netted 14 points, dished out seven assists and came away with a pair of steals, including one with just 1:33 on the clock that helped seal the win. Junior guard Randall Shaw chipped in nine points, while Josh Livingston shared team-high rebounding honors with five.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Wingate, which is battling for a top-four finish in the SAC regular-season standings, opened up a double-digit, 14-4, lead less than five minutes into the game and led by a dozen with less than 12 minutes on the clock in the first half.
But the Trojans refused to surrender and chipped away at the deficit behind 14 unanswered points over the next three minutes, while claiming a lead they would not relinquish until the final two minutes of the game, at 22-20, on a layup by Christian Jeffords with 8:44 on the clock. Ellis sparked the comeback with five straight points, with Howard following by dropping in five straight points.
Shaw broke a 22-22 deadlock with a 3-pointer and AU pushed out to a 37-28 lead on a pair of free throws from junior Andrew Boynton with less than two minutes on the clock. The Bulldogs cut AU's lead to three in the final seconds of the half, before Howard sank a jumper with two seconds left and the Trojans went to intermission with a 39-34 edge.
The Trojans rebuilt an eight-point advantage on two occasions before Wingate surged back within two midway through the half and crept within a single point three times inside the final 3:32 before knotting the score at 69 apiece on two free throws by Quantra Taylor at the 2:08 mark.
After giving AU a 70-69 edge with one of two from the line, Howard stole the ball and following a 30-second timeout, it led to a layup from Ellis that gave the Trojans some breathing room with 1:15 remaining. Wingate again cut the lead to just one, but Howard and Shaw were a perfect 4-of-4 from the line inside the final 17 seconds to hold off the Bulldogs.
ANDERSON STAT OF THE DAY
The Trojans swiped nine steals – their highest tally since recording 12 against Queens in mid-December.
• The Trojans currently trail Coker by one game for sixth place in the league standings.
• AU was 11-of-13 (84.6%) from the free throw line.
• The Trojans converted 14 Wingate turnovers into 20 points.
• Led by Howard, the Trojans handed out 14 assists – the most since dishing out 20 assists in a loss at Carson-Newman at the end of January.
• Wingate out-rebounded the Trojans, 40-29.
The Trojans open their final two-game conference homestand of the season when Tusculum invades the Abney Athletic Center on Wednesday. AU will be looking to sweep the regular-season series after defeating the Pioneers, 69-68, in mid-January. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m.