ANDERSON, S.C. – A flurry of 3-pointers lifted the Anderson men's basketball team to a double-digit first-half lead and the Trojans held off a determined Lenoir-Rhyne squad, 74-69, in South Atlantic Conference action, Saturday afternoon at the Abney Athletic Center.
Anderson (6-4, 2-2 SAC) got back in the win column and earned its fifth home victory of the season, while handing the Bears their first road loss in six decisions this season. After opening the campaign with seven straight wins, Lenoir-Rhyne (8-3, 2-2 SAC) has lost two straight and three of its last four contests.
INSIDE THE BOX SCORE
Senior guard Gage Ellis notched his second double-double in three games with a game-high 26 points and equaled his career-high by pulling down a game-best 10 rebounds. The Greenville, S.C., native also equaled his career-best with five steals on the afternoon. Junior guard Shawn Benard netted 17 points and dished out four assists, while equaling his career-high by grabbing nine rebounds. Senior guard Randall Shaw added 10 points in 21 minutes of action, with senior forward Jeremy Bouton notching eight points and collecting five rebounds.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Bears broke an early 4-4 deadlock with five straight points to take a quick lead, while the Trojans countered with 12 unanswered points to take a lead they would not surrender. Ellis ignited the outburst with a pair of free throws, while Benard fueled the surge by scoring 10 consecutive points, including a 3-pointer and capped the run with a traditional three-point play that gave AU a 16-9 advantage with less than 14 minutes on the clock.
But Lenoir-Rhyne stayed close and crept within 20-19 on sophomore guard Darius Simmons' lone 3-pointer of the afternoon at the 10:48 mark. The Trojans countered by erupting for a 14-0 run over a three-minute span on the strength of four treys by four different players, with freshman Satchel Hester also adding a layup to tally five points during the decisive run.
L-R trimmed the Trojan advantage to single digits (34-26) with 5:16 remaining in the frame, but AU responded by building a 44-28 advantage - its largest lead of the contest – with 1:05 on the clock and took a 14-point lead into intermission.
The Trojan offense stalled coming out of the break, enabling L-R to close the gap to just 48-43 with more than 14 minutes left in the game. Bouton answered with five of AU's next six points to give the Trojans some breathing room with another double-digit lead before the Bears chipped away and climbed within 58-55 at the 6:56 mark.
But the Trojans withstood the challenge and connected on 7-of-9 free throws inside the final four minutes to seal the win.
ANDERSON STAT OF THE DAY
The Trojans connected on eight 3-pointers on the afternoon, including seven in the first half.
• The Trojans won the rebounding battle, 36-35, with each team recording seven offensive boards.
• The Trojans equaled their season-high with 18 turnovers.
• The Trojans have swiped at least six steals in seven consecutive games.
• Gage Ellis has reached double-figure scoring in all 10 games.
• Shawn Benard has dished out at least four assists in eight consecutive games, including 8 in two of the last four games.
• The Trojans have connected on at least 80% of their free throws in five of their last six games.
• Gage Ellis has at least two steals in seven straight contests.
• AU improved to 7-2 versus the Bears in the Electric City.
Anderson will wrap up its nonconference slate with a pair of matchups, when Southern Wesleyan invades the Abney Center on Wednesday and Lees-McRae visits the Electric City on Sunday, Dec. 30.
Tip-off versus the Warriors is set for 4 p.m. on Wednesday, with the Trojans looking for a sweep of the season series after defeating SWU, 85-62, on
Nov. 10 at Historic Tysinger Gymnasium.