SAC Basketball: Tusculum 59, Catawba 54
By David Shaw
It has already been a long year for the Catawba men’s basketball team.
The Indians remained winless in 2011 following a 59-54 SAC loss — their fifth straight and fourth since the calendar turned — to visiting Tusculum on Saturday.
“I’m not telling my guys they’re not giving 100 percent,” coach Jim Baker said. “I’m telling them they have to get 10 percent better. That’s all it’s going to take.”
Catawba (5-9, 1-5) no longer has that fresh-out-of-the-box look it sported a month ago, when it edged Belmont Abbey for its last victory. But it wasn’t going to beat Tusculum (7-9, 4-2) when the Pioneers shot 58 percent (25-for-43) from the field and limited the hosts to 18 baskets.
“It all comes down execution,” junior guard Justin Huntley said. “We’ve just got to brush ourselves off and get back up. Nobody’s gonna throw a pity-party for us. If they do, they’re not gonna win the ballgame.”
Catawba led only once — when 6-foot-5 freshman Kejuan Mayo muscled down the lane for a layup and an 11-9 advantage six minutes into the game. It was 18-18 after senior guard Dominick Reid, idled the past two-plus games with a concussion, hit a jumper from the right side for his only field goal with eight minutes remaining in the first half.
“He’s working his way back,” Baker said after Reid, the team’s leading scorer, shot 1-for-7 from the floor and 0-for-5 from 3-point range. “He had one shot that just left his hand funny. And I made him shoot that one late in the game. I yelled to him, he nodded his head, and let it go.”
That shot, a home run ball from in front of Catawba’s bench, sailed over the rim. It may have signaled the beginning of the end for the Indians.
“At the end, it was just their execution vs. ours,” said Keon Moore, Catawba’s top scorer with 14 points. “They were better at crunch time.”
The Indians seemingly positioned themselves to win when Trey Shoemaker capped a 7-0 run with a game-tying 12-foot set shot with 9:40 to play. Tusculum jumped right in the driver’s seat and responded with three consecutive layups, the last two by 6-10 baseline specialist Tommy Klempin.
“We’ve been in personal battles like this before,” Klempin said after shooting 7-for-11 from the field and netting a game-high 15 points. “It’s always the toughest teams that win. Our whole thing today was push them out of the paint and clear some space.”
Catawba inched within two points three times in the final six minutes — first when Kelvin Drakeford completed a 3-point play and later when Cameron Lovelace stuck a 3-pointer with 4:50 remaining. Moore’s 3-ball from the left side pulled the Tribe within 56-54 with 24 seconds to go.
“We are a grinding team,” said winning coach Jim Boone. “For us to win, we’ve got to grind it out — and that means being tough everywhere on the court.”
For Baker, it was just another dose of SAC tough love.
“It’s a learning process,” he said. “You look at the ACC or any team with a lot of freshmen. You’ve got to get you’re tail kicked a little bit before you figure it out. That’s what we’re fighting right now.”
NOTES: The victory was Tuculum’s third conference win away from home this week. … Reid, who averages 16.5 points, was cleared by the medical staff Saturday morning to play 20 minutes. He put in 19. … Moore was 3-for-5 from beyond the arc. … Catawba plays three of its next four games on the road, beginning Wednesday at Lenoir-Rhyne.
TUSCULUM (59) — Klempin 15, Steigerwald 11, Vest 9, Grey 6, Troutman 5, Darnell 5, Williams 4, Miller 2, Tuz 2.
CATAWBA (54) — Moore 14, Huntley 10, Drakeford 9, Lovelace 8, Mayo 5, Thomson 3, Reid 3, Shoemaker 2, Martin, Tyree.
Tusculum 32 27 — 59
Catawba 28 26 — 54