Bobcats overcome second half scare, edge Pioneers 66-61

Box score

BANNER ELK, N.C. --- The Lees-McRae College men's basketball team rallied from a second-half deficit against Tusculum College on Tuesday night in Williams Gymnasium after holding a 10-point lead at the half, running its win streak to three games with a 66-61 victory over the Pioneers.

Lees-McRae (3-1) is off to its best start since before the 2006-07 season, when the Bobcats opened the campaign with a 2-1 mark. The Bobcats posted their third-straight game with a shooting percentage of at least 55 percent, knocking down 56.4 percent of their field goal attempts while holding Tusculum (2-4) to a 25 percent clip from beyond the arc.

Tevin Friday (Gastonia, N.C.) and Daniel Sepokas (Illawong, Australia) each tallied 14 points to pace the Bobcats, while Reshon Benjamin (Valdosta, Ga.) dished out a team-high five assists. Sepokas chipped in four helpers, while grabbing a team-high five rebounds; Matt Eller (Lake Norman, N.C.) and Benjamin posted nine and seven points, respectively.

JD Miller (Versailles, Ky.) led the way for the Pioneers with a game-high 21 points, including 12 markers in the first half, while finishing the night 10-of-12 from the floor to go with six rebounds. Rob Troutman (Mt. Washington, Ky.) joined Miller in double figures with 14 points, while dishing out a game-high eight assists. Tommy Klempin (Reynoldsburg, Ohio) tallied a game-high 10 rebounds, while Kevin Vest (Dayton, Ohio) chipped in six assists.

Lees-McRae got off to a strong start, opening an early 6-2 lead before Tusculum responded, launching a 6-2 spurt of its own to even the score at 8-8 on a Miller layup with 14:14 to go in the half. The Bobcats answered, reclaiming the lead with a 13-2 run that was book-ended by a pair of Eller triples to give LMC a 21-10 lead with 10:52 remaining in the period.

Tusculum would trim the lead to seven on a pair of occasions during the final 10 minutes of the half, cutting the margin to 27-20 with a 10-6 spurt that was capped by a Miller dunk at the 6:11 mark. Lees-McRae responded, out-scoring the Pioneers by a 13-10 margin down the stretch to take a 40-30 lead into the intermission, thanks to an Eller triple with 1:02 to go in the half.

The Pioneers would answer in the early moments of the second half, cutting the margin to 45-40 on a Miller layup at the 16:09 mark, which capped a 10-5 spurt. After the Bobcats pushed the lead back to 49-40 with a pair of quick baskets, Tusculum reclaimed the momentum, launching a 9-0 run over the next four minutes to even the score at 49-49 on a Troutman triple with 11:02 to play.

The teams would trade baskets for the next several minutes until Tusculum knocked down a trio of big shots, taking a 59-55 lead on a jumper by Dionte Grey (Johnson City, Tenn.) with 5:47 remaining on the clock. Lees-McRae would answer, launching an 8-0 run to reclaim the lead at 63-59 on a clutch fast-break layup by Friday at the 3:21 mark.

After Grey banked home a tough layup at the 2:53 mark to cut the margin to 63-61, the Lees-McRae defense stepped up, making several key stops to hold on for the narrow five-point victory.

Lees-McRae returns to the court on Monday, Nov. 29 when the Bobcats host Brevard College in a Southeast Region clash. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. in Williams Gymnasium.

- LMC -