Clutch Plays Down the Stretch Lift Trojans over Lenoir-Rhyne

Clutch Plays Down the Stretch Lift Trojans over Lenoir-Rhyne

HICKORY, N.C. – Junior guard Shawn Benard dropped in the go-ahead basket with just more than a minute left and senior Gage Ellis sealed the victory with a late layup, as the Anderson men's basketball team snapped a brief two-game skid with thrilling, 71-70, win over Lenoir-Rhyne, Saturday afternoon at Shuford Memorial Gym.

Anderson improved to 13-10 overall and 7-8 in the South Atlantic Conference by winning its fifth game in the last eight outings, while handing the Bears just their third home loss of the season. Lenoir-Rhyne fell to 16-6 and 9-4.

Ellis finished the day with a team-high 14 points and also pulled down six rebounds, with senior guard Randall Shaw adding 12 points – all in the second half. Benard recorded 11 points and dished out a game-high seven assists, while blocking two shots and grabbing five rebounds. Sophomore forward Josh Livingston tallied eight points and a team-high seven rebounds, with senior guard Andrew Boynton also notching eight points.

First Half
The Bears jumped out to an 11-4 lead inside the opening five minutes and still held a 20-14 advantage at the 10:29 mark of the opening half, before senior Kevin Simpson sparked a 9-2 surge by the Trojans that was capped by a Jordan Jeffries layup and gave AU just its second lead of the contest, at 23-22.

Lenoir-Rhyne countered with five unanswered points, with the Trojans answering with six straight points of the own and the lead changed hands two more times before AU claimed a 34-30 halftime lead.

Second Half
Ellis drove for a layup to open the second half to boost AU's margin to six, but the lead was short-lived, as Lenoir-Rhyne came right back to build a 40-36 edge and the two squads swapped the lead five more times before the Bears claimed a 50-49 lead midway through the half and held the advantage for the next two minutes.

The two teams continued the see-saw battle down the stretch, with L-R senior Djibril Diallo giving the Bears a 66-63 lead with 2:41 on the clock. Simpson responded on the other end with a layup 15 seconds later to pull AU within a single point, with the Bears' Cory Thomas driving for a layup to give L-R its' final field goal of the afternoon. Livingston answered with a close bucket to get AU within 68-67 and following an L-R turnover and a timeout, Benard gave AU its first lead in two minutes (69-68). The Bears followed by turning it over for the second straight possession and Ellis put AU ahead, 71-68, with his layup.

The Bears' Jon Jean connected on a pair of free throws with just four seconds left to set the final score.

The back-and-forth struggle featured 10 ties and 19 lead changes.

• The largest lead by either team was seven points.
• Lenoir-Rhyne won the rebounding battle, 43-39.
• AU converted 17 L-R turnovers into 18 points.
• The Trojans outscored L-R, 36-22, in the paint.
• The Trojans have dished out double-figure assists in 12 of their last 13 games.
• The Trojans have connected on at least five 3-pointers in eight consecutive games, including seven in five of the last six games.
• The Trojans won their fourth road contest of the season.

The Trojans open their final homestand of the regular season by welcoming Carson-Newman to the Electric City on Wednesday. AU will be looking to avenge an earlier 87-79 loss to the Eagles and earn a split of the regular-season series. Tip-off at the Abney Athletic Center is slated for 8 p.m.