Blue Bear men can't hold lead

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 25, 2007

By David Shaw

Salisbury Post

Halfway through Thursday night’s men’s basketball game at Trent Gym, Livingstone had first-place Virginia State scratching its head.

The Blue Bears had crawled out of an early 17-2 hole and jogged to their dressing room with a three-point halftime lead.

“We were doing a lot of things right — pressuring them and working on getting good shots,” senior Brent Cowles said. “Our confidence level was there.”

An hour later, after VSU used a strong finishing kick to beat them 66-57, they were scratching their own heads.

“A game like this leaves you wondering,” coach James Stinson said after the Blue Bears (4-11, 2-8 CIAA) suffered their third loss in four games. “It makes you start to second-guess yourself.”

The woulda-coulda-shoulda defense didn’t work for most LC players. They held a 55-52 lead after guard Michael Duncan drove for a high-arcing layup off the glass with 3:44 remaining but were outscored 14-2 the rest of the way.

“Our coaches put us in position to win,” junior forward Ivan Jackson said after netting 14 points. “(Virginia State) just made plays down the stretch — and we didn’t.”

Winning coach Anthony Collins had nothing but praise for Livingstone after the Trojans 14-3, 9-1) gained their fourth straight win.

“They played well enough to beat us tonight,” he said. “They did not quit after falling behind 17-2, which is easy to do. Instead they hung in there and fought us right to the end.”

This fight had all the earmarks of a first-round knockout after VSU hit seven of its first 10 shots while the Blue Bears went 1-for-10 in the opening 7:21. But Jackson’s major-league dunk and back-to-back 3-pointers by Cowles and Tony Futrell capped a 19-5 spurt and drew LC within 22-21.

“It was the guys off the bench,” said Duncan, a starter who had seven turnovers. “They sparked us and brought us back. They made it a tough game.”

VSU’s last field goal of the first half came with 4:16 on the clock. Livingstone took its first lead when Cowles drained a

3-ball from the left side with 1:06 to go. And when Jackson hit a pair free throws — awarded when Collins was called for a technical foul — the hosts had a 31-28 halftime lead.

“We knew we had to keep playing aggressively,” Jackson said. “Honestly, they may be a first-place team, but we feel we’re a really good team that keeps coming up just short.”

The lead changed hands for the eighth and final time when VSU’s Jamar Fleming hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1:26 remaining. The guests converted seven of eight free throws in the closing seconds to secure the outcome.

“We’ve just got to keep working,” Stinson said. “Our lack of execution toward the end of the game is what hurt us. We had chances but we squandered possessions. You can’t be competitive if you do that.”


NOTES: VSU’s Avis Wyatt, a 6-foot-11 senior projected as a second-round NBA draft pick, had eight points and eight rebounds.

VIRGINIA STATE (66) — Fleming 16, Askew 14, Mines 9, Wyatt 8, Raymond 8, Henderson 7, Torres 4.

LIVINGSTONE (57) — Cowles 16, Jackson 14, Bussie 7, Futrell 5, Duncan 4, Butler 4, Lewis 4, Worley 2, White 1, Satterthwaite, Jacobs.

Va. State 28 38 — 66

Livingstone 31 26 — 57