MARS HILL, N.C. – With five players reaching double-figure scoring for the third straight game, the Anderson men's basketball team opened its' final two-game road swing of the season by outpacing Mars Hill, 87-75, in South Atlantic Conference play, Wednesday night at Stanford Arena.
Anderson improved to 16-11 overall and 10-9 in the league with its third straight win, while Mars Hill (9-18, 3-16 SAC) suffered its seventh straight setback.
INSIDE THE BOX SCORE
Junior guard Shawn Benard led all scorers by equaling his season-high with 24 points, while narrowly missing his fourth double-double of the campaign by pulling down nine rebounds. The native of Mobile, Ala., also handed out six assists and swiped a pair of steals. Sophomore forward Josh Livingston notched his first double-double with 17 points – on 8-of-10 shooting - and grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds, with senior guard Gage Ellis also netting 17 points. Senior forward Jeremy Bouton tallied 13 points and eight rebounds, while senior guard Randall Shaw added 10 points.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Trojans snapped an early 8-8 deadlock with an 11-2 outburst that saw AU capture a 19-10 lead at the 11:49 mark.
While shooting better than 47 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes, the Trojans maintained at least a five point lead, before pushing out to a double-digit, 33-23, advantage with less than six minutes remaining in the half. But the Lions rallied to trim AU's lead to just 40-38 in the closing seconds of the frame, before a jumper by Ellis gave the Trojans a 42-38 halftime advantage.
The Lions used an early second-half surge to take their first lead of the game, at 50-49 with 14:26 left in the contest and edged out to a 52-49 advantage at the 13:18 mark. With Mars Hill still leading by one midway through the half, Benard sparked a 7-0 run that gave the Trojans the lead for good, at 61-55.
AU steadily rebuilt a double-digit advantage late in the contest and held off any Mars Hill comeback by going 6-of-8 from the free throw line inside the final minute.
ANDERSON STAT OF THE NIGHT
The Trojans converted 15 Mars Hill miscues into 20 points.
• The Trojans won the rebounding battle, 46-40, and pulled down a season-high 16 offensive boards.
• The Trojans have dished out double-figure assists in 15 of their last 17 contests.
• AU claimed its fourth win in its last five decisions.
• AU won its eighth game in its last 12 outings overall.
• The Trojans have equaled their longest win streak of the season.
• The Trojans have clinched their third consecutive appearance in the SAC Tournament and their seventh appearance in the postseason since joining the SAC for the 2010-11 campaign.
• AU has clinched at least the No. 7 seed in next month's SAC Tournament and can still overtake Tusculum for the sixth seed and Lenoir-Rhyne for the No. 5 seed.
• With the first basket of the game at the 19:42 mark, senior Jeremy Bouton became the 14th player in program history to reach the 1,000 career-point plateau.
AU wraps up the regular season by visiting Catawba on Saturday afternoon. The Trojans will be seeking a sweep of the regular-season series with the Indians after edging then-24th ranked Catawba, 82-80, in mid-January. Tip-off in Salisbury, N.C., is slated for 4 p.m.