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Bishops relent second half lead, conference game at home

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N.C. Wesleyan College's Robert Wilson, right, attempts a shot as Maryville College's Kaleb Estes defends Saturday at Everett Gymnasium.

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By SAMUEL EVERS
Sports Writer

Saturday, January 6, 2018

It was the perfect defensive possession: three deflected passes causing three Maryville College inbounds passes, ending in a forced three-pointer at the shot clock buzzer that missed the rim and settled into a N.C. Wesleyan player’s hands.

It capped a 7-0 five-minute run to start the second half, giving the Bishops their biggest lead of the game at 49-42. It ignited NCWC’s bench, and seemed like a step toward pulling away for a win Saturday afternoon at Everett Gymnasium.

Instead, Maryville coach Randy Lambert called a timeout, and the Scots (8-3, 5-0 USA South) returned to the floor with a deflating 11-0 run, gaining back the energy, and with it, eventually the 69-61 win in a back-and-forth contest.

“The momentum had definitely shifted to their favor -- just had to slow our guys down,” said Lambert, who was coaching his 1,000th college game. “We got caught up into the intensity of the game rather than thinking and executing. We did an exceptional job of going back to our game.”

The Bishops (4-7, 2-3 USA South) did hang in after that tide-swinging run, even taking back the lead for a few minutes -- thanks in part to a hot stretch for Adrian Moore -- but seemed a basket, a rebound or a box out short of coming back when the Scots took their final lead at the 4:51 mark.

The conference loss was NCWC’s second in two games, the first a backbreaking overtime defeat on Tuesday in a game they led by 16 with nine minutes left against Methodist University..

The sentiment for coach John Thompson remained the same with this loss as the last one, though the loss Saturday came within the flow of the game, rather than a large blown lead.

“At the end of the day, we’ve got to do a better job of rebounding, stopping second chance points. A couple of crucial turnovers late,” Thomspon said. “Until we fix the rebounding, nothing much matters. Too many second shots.”

Indeed, the Bishops were outrebounded overall (44-41) and on the offensive glass (17-11), but the discrepancy felt larger late, when the Scots twice grabbed offensive boards off missed free throws.

Up by one with three minutes left, Maryville scored twice for a quick 4-0 run at the 1:47 mark. Moore, who finished with a team and game-high 20, made a three-pointer to bring the game within two points, but the Scots answered with a mid-range jumpshot, then forced a turnover, icing the game with a layup at the shot clock buzzer off a tipped three-point attempt.

That made it a six-point game with 45 seconds left.

“We have to know that, when we have the momentum, we have to keep it on our side. Not let them get it back. When they had that run, they had us catching up the rest of the game,” said Moore, one of two NCWC seniors. “But as much as I hate to say it, this team’s still learning.”

A.J. Frye, who scored 26 points last game, was in foul trouble for most of this one, finishing with nine points and nine rebounds. Robert Wilson added 14 and Damon McDowell has six off the bench, including several stellar defensive plays earlier in the second half.

“We’ve been in these spots before,” Moore said. “We’ll bounce back, get back in the W column. We have some coming up that we should win if we play with energy, play the right way.”

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