College Basketball: Limestone 74, Catawba 69

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 10, 2011

By David Shaw
SALISBURY — Missed opportunities are being parlayed into missed victories for the Catawba men’s basketball team.
The Indians squandered not one, not two, but three chances to take a late-game lead in what became a 74-69 loss to visiting Limestone on Saturday.
“We’re a little snakebit,” coach Jim Baker said quietly after Catawba (3-5) converted only three of 15 free throws and suffered its third straight loss. “You shoot that poorly from the foul line and you’re not going to win.”
Catawba was paced by 6-foot-8 freshman Tyrece Little, who contributed 18 points, 13 rebounds and a pair of major-league rejections. Teammate Keon Moore, a penetrating guard with a full palate of skills, had 16 points but oddly, never went to the free throw line.
“I wasn’t as aggressive as I usually am,” Moore said after launching 12 3-pointers and shooting 6-for-17 from the field. “This is no excuse but I was cramping up all night. And this was exam week for us and I’ve been staying up late every night.”
He won’t rest peacefully after Limestone (6-4) made him a non-factor.
“That was our objective,” winning coach Brandon Scott said. “We know he shoots 93 percent from the line and averages about 10 free throws a game. We thought if we kept him off the line we’d have a good chance.”
The Saints, winners of three straight games, were led by 6-6 junior Charles Blue. The Corpus Christi native delivered a Tex-message by shooting 9-for-16 from the floor and outshining everyone with 26 points and 17 rebounds.
“I don’t know what I did,” he said bluntly. “I just play.”
Catawba spent much of the game playing catchup. Down by as many as 14 points late in the first half, the Indians tied the score 62-62 when Lee Martin buried a 3-pointer from the left side with 6:26 remaining.
“We were a lot better in the second half,” Baker said. “Our defense was better. Tyrece was better. We finally made some plays inside.”
Limestone cemented the outcome when Catawba unraveled in the closing four minutes. The Indians trailed 64-63 when Justin Huntley missed a pair of free throws with 3:50 left. Little misfired on two more after getting hacked inside with 3:09 to play. And Huntley, who finished 1-for-7 from the line, missed two more with 2:14 remaining.
“Free throws come and go,” said Blue. “On your best days you can hit five out of five. On your worst, maybe two out of five. They did beat themselves a little bit, but us being aggressive on defense had something to do with it.”
Limestone sealed the deal 20 seconds later when Blue gained position and hit a layup, got fouled and completed a three-point play.
“It came down to us focusing within ourselves,” Little said after shooting 8-for-14 from the field and reeling in seven offensive rebounds. “Maybe we didn’t have enough fatigue to finish. It plays a role when you so tired and you dig down for something extra.”
Baker summed it up best when he concluded, “We’ve just got to get better.”

NOTES: Catawba returns to action Dec. 16 at Belmont-Abbey. … Limestone was without pre-season All-American forward Jarell Douglass, out with a career-ending injury. … Catawba shot 39 percent from the floor and hit 10 3-pointers. … Limestone’s bench players shot 7-for-9 and scored 20 points in the first half. … The Saints played a 2-3 zone defense in last weekend’s 73-72 win against Livingstone but a soft man-to-man against the Indians.
LIMESTONE (74) — Blue 26, Moultrie 14, Sloan 12, Corry 11, Bodgan 6, McNeil 3, Long 2, Debnam.
CATAWBA (69) — Little 18, Moore 16, Martin 9, Lovelace 6, Huntley 5, Watson 5, Gilmore 4, Thomson 4, Knight 2, Drakeford, Strickland.
Limestone 43 31 — 74
Catawba 32 37 — 69