SAC Basketball: Anderson 75, Catawba 65
By David Shaw
SALISBURY — No one has to tell the Catawba men’s basketball team what is meant by the phrase dead-of-winter.
The reeling Indians could write a thesis on the subject after absorbing their seventh consecutive loss Saturday at Goodman Gym.
“At this point we have no where to go but up,” sophomore Keon Moore said after Catawba fell 75-65 to Anderson. “On the court and in the locker room, you can’t get any lower than where we are.”
Catawba (3-9, 0-4) also found the bottom line in the SAC standings, falling into a tie for last place. It was so gloomy that longtime coach Jim Baker benched his entire starting lineup during a second-half stoppage and later sequestered his team for a 20-minute postgame pep talk.
“We’re just all over the place right now,” he said. “We’ve had some good halves lately, but we’re not mentally tough at all. We’ve got the nicest kids I’ve ever had, but we just don’t bull up and play like I think we should.”
Catawba could have used a Grinch or two against Anderson (9-3, 4-0), especially after Justin Huntley hit a pull-up jumper in the lane to give the Indians a 25-19 first-half lead.
Anderson responded with a 12-0 run that helped the Trojans mount a five-point lead at the break.
“That was frustrating — a huge emotional swing,” Catawba’s Lee Martin said. “We were right there and then execution-wise and mental-wise we just lost it.”
Moore led Catawba with 18 points despite shooting a pedestrian 5-for-16 from the field. Martin (14), Stuart Thomson (11) and 6-foot-8 freshman Tyrece Little (11) also cracked double figures. Little also harvested six rebounds and three blocked shots from 12 foul-plagued minutes.
“We knew they had a young post, so we wanted to go inside and attack him,” said Anderson senior Taylor Shugart. “It was mostly a matter of keeping our poise and taking care of the ball.”
Winning coach Jason Taylor pointed to Anderson’s slight rebounding edge (45-38).
“The biggest key for us was getting to the glass,” he said after Anderson won for the sixth time in its last seven games. “Catawba was long and athletic, and they had good shooters who were hard to guard. You better make sure you limit them to one shot.”
The Indians inched as close as 38-34 when Martin converted a pair of free throws with 16:53 remaining. Anderson responded with a game-clinching 13-3 spurt, sparked by sniper Nick Trull. The senior out of Charlotte’s Hickory Grove High buried two 3-pointers and scored 12 points in a decisive three-and-a-half-minute span.
“He has the best work ethic of anyone I’ve ever seen,” Shugart said after shooting 10-for-19 from the field and contributing 22 points and 11 rebounds. “Any coach in any division would love to have him, whether he plays or not. You want him on your team.”
It was Trull’s 3-ball from the top of the key that gave Anderson a 54-38 edge midway through the second half — and forced Baker to make wholesale changes.
“Coach felt like he had to prove a point,” Moore said. “He got it across.”
It was still 71-56 after Anderson’s Tyrell McDowell sank two free throws with 2:23 to go. With the clock waning, Catawba switched to a pressure defense, double-teaming the ball and forcing four turnovers down the stretch. The Indians cut their deficit to eight points when Moore stuck a last-minute three, but it was too little, too late.
“This is the worst start since I’ve been here,” said Baker, who took over in 1994-95. “We’re regressing. I’m really not sure what to expect when we roll it out there.”
Shugart, for one, thinks better days are coming for Catawba.
“I can’t believe they’ve lost seven in a row,” he said. “Our coach tells us they’ve played two completely different halves in every game. They’ve got to find out who they are and figure out how to make it work.”
NOTES: The Indians kick off a two-game road trip at Brevard on Wednesday. … Trull, with 1,268 career points, is on target to become Anderson’s No. 2 all-time scorer by the end of the season.
ANDERSON (75) — Shugart 22, Trull 17, Jones 10, McGowan 9, Lamb 8, Hash 6, McDowell 3, Sledge.
CATAWBA (65) — Moore 18, Martin 14, Little 11, Thomson 11, Huntley 7, Lovelace 2, Drakeford 1, Strickland 1, Smogner, Knight, Gilmore, Tamer.
Anderson 34 41 — 75
Catawba 29 36 — 65