College Basketball: Livingstone men 72, Shaw 67, 2 OTs

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 27, 2007

Salisbury Post

It had all the markings of a disaster waiting to happen.

The Livingstone men’s basketball team found itself trailing Shaw University — a team beaten by each of its previous 11 CIAA opponents — and time was fleeting late Saturday night.

“We just had to win this game,” LC junior Christopher Worley explained at Trent Gym moments later. “Because if we didn’t, you know we’d be out there running and practicing right now.”

Not to worry. The Blue Bears saved themselves from potential embarrassment by rallying for a 72-67 double-overtime victory.

“I knew it would be a dogfight,” coach James Stinson said after Livingstone 5-11, 3-8) snapped a two-game losing streak. “But for us, we needed this victory for our kids’ morale. They’ve played everybody so tough, but always come in on the short side. I’m just glad they had the opportunity to see success.”

It came into view after a series of failures. The Blue Bears squandered an early 18-12 lead and allowed Shaw (2-17, 0-12) to tie the score 30-30 at halftime. Then the guests built a 54-49 edge when Brandon Greene drove across the lane and hit a layup with 2:45 remaining in regulation.

“We looked sluggish,” said LC high-scorer Stephen Butler said after teammate Michael Duncan drove the lane for a last-minute basket that sent the game into overtime. “We lacked confidence. We should have put this team away a lot earlier, but we let them keep pushing and pushing.”

Most of that pushing was done by New Jersey native Robert Espinosa, a 6-7 forward who had 20 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots for SU. When Shaw went nearly 11 minutes without a field goal, it was his putback that ended the drought with 1:58 remaining.

“We have some good players,” said losing coach Robert Brickey. “And we shot the ball OK. But I don’t think we were very composed in either overtime. We had that confused look. Guys were just looking around instead of getting into our sets and running the plays.”

Livingstone must have smelled blood in the water. Butler (19 points, nine rebounds) opened the first OT with a long 3-pointer from the left corner. Teammate Marcus Lewis hit the second of two free throws to make it 58-54 before SU forced the second overtime by converting four free throws.

“The good thing is we never really panicked,” Stinson said. “I always felt we were right there within striking distance. Our guys have a tendency to panic when they get behind, but that never happened tonight.”

They can thank Butler for that. LC took the lead for keeps right off the second overtime tipoff, when Duncan zipped a pass to Butler for another 3-pointer from the left side.

“It’s a set play. We run it every day in practice,” Butler said after hitting 4 of his 8 three-point attempts. “Sometimes (Stinson) calls it for Brent (Cowles) or Ivan (Jackson), but he usually wants the guy with the hot hand taking that shot.”

The 3-ball provided a

61-58 lead and seemed to re-energize the Blue Bears, who made eight of 10 free throws in the final 2:07.

“We could have done a lot better,” said Stinson. “But we did enough.”

shaw (67) — Espinosa 20, Smith 12, Kornegay 9, Gaither 8, Obadina 7, Greene 6, K.Williams 3, McCullers 2.

livingstone (72) — Butler 19, Worley 11, Bussie 9, Cowles 6, Duncan 5, Lewis 5, Gunning 5, Johnson 4, J.Williams 2, Thompson 2, Jackson 2, Saterthwaite 2, Jacobs, White.

Shaw 30 24 4 9 — 67

Livingstone 30 24 4 14 — 72

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Contact David Shaw at dshaw@salisburypost.com.

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