ANDERSON, S.C. – Junior guard Shawn Benard's two free throws with just six-tenths of a second on the clock lifted the Anderson men's basketball team to an 82-80 upset win over No. 24-ranked Catawba in South Atlantic Conference action, Saturday afternoon at the Abney Athletic Center.
Anderson (10-7, 4-5 SAC) earned its second straight victory and improved to 8-1 on its home hardwood with its fourth consecutive win at the Abney Center. Catawba slipped to 13-4 overall and 6-3 in league action with just its second road loss of the season.
INSIDE THE BOX SCORE
Senior guard Gage Ellis led all scorers with 20 points, including 14 in the second half, and also pulled down five rebounds. Senior guard Randall Shaw added 19 points, with sophomore forward Josh Livingston coming off the bench to score 15 points. Senior forward Jeremy Bouton chipped in 11 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Senior guard Andrew Boynton notched eight points, three assists and three steals. Benard finished the contest with six points – all from the free throw stripe - and dished out a game-high nine assists.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Trojans held the potent Catawba offense scoreless for nearly three minutes to open the contest, while AU scored the first eight points of the game. With Shaw dropping in five of his points in the opening three minutes, the Trojans raced out to a quick 11-2 advantage.
After the Indians trimmed AU's early lead to 11-6 with just under 16 minutes on the clock, Shaw drained his second 3-pointer of the opening moments to spark a brief 8-2 surge that saw AU push out to a double-digit, 19-9 cushion on a trey by senior Kevin Simpson at the 11:56 mark.
Less than three minutes later, with AU still holding a 10-point lead, at 23-13, the Indians reeled off eight unanswered points to climb within just two before Boynton slowed their comeback with a traditional three-point play.
The Trojans refused to surrender the lead over the remainder of the opening frame, with their lead hovering between two and seven points over the final 4:41 of the half. AU went to the locker room holding a tenuous 39-36 lead at the break.
AU steadily increased its advantage through the opening six minutes of the second stanza and claimed its largest lead of the game, at 58-46, with more than 13 minutes left in the game.
But the Indians chipped away and used a 10-0 outburst over a three-minute span to knot the score for the first time of the afternoon, at 65-65, with 7:21 on the clock and claimed a 68-67 advantage - their first lead of the game – when senior Jordan Barber sank one-of-two free throws.
The game was tied three more times and the lead changed hands eight times inside the final 6:32. Catawba pushed to its largest lead, 70-67, moments later, but the back-and-forth final minutes saw Bouton knock down a trey from deep in the left corner that gave the Trojans a 78-76 lead with 1:19 remaining and they would not trail again.
A pair of free throws from Benard boosted AU's edge to four with 42.7 ticks remaining, but the Trojans weren't out of the woods yet, as Catawba's Jeremy McLaughlin countered with two of his own from the charity stripe and following a turnover by AU, Jameel Taylor dropped in a jumper to deadlock the score at 80 apiece with 10.8 seconds left.
Following a 30-second timeout, the Trojans inbounded the ball and Benard drove toward the basket from the right side, eventually drawing a foul with the whistle occurring just before the horn sounded. After 0.6 was put back on the clock, Benard – a 70.7 percent free-throw shooter on the season – calmly stepped to the line and drained the first attempt, while trying to miss the second, but it rattled in to give AU the 82-80 lead. The Indians inbounded the ball, but were unable to corral the ball and get a shot off before the horn.
ANDERSON STAT OF THE NIGHT
The Trojans were 17-of-19 (89.5%) from the free throw line, while Catawba was 18-of-29 (62.1%) on the night.
• Catawba out-rebounded the Trojans, 48-32, and pulled down 24 offensive rebounds.
• The Trojans handed out 19 assists for the third straight contest.
• The Trojans earned a home win over a nationally-ranked team for the first time since the 2012-13 campaign.
• The Trojans claimed their 14th win in the last 19 meetings with the Indians.
• The Trojans were playing at home for the first time in the New Year.
• AU improved to 8-1 on its home hardwood.
• AU extended its home win streak to four games.
The Trojans continue their three-game homestand by welcoming Mars Hill to the Electric City on Wednesday. Tip-off versus the Lions at the Abney Center is scheduled for 8 p.m.