Published 12:00 am Friday, January 11, 2013
SALISBURY — Felician College in Lodi, N.J., is no longer the only correct answer to the trivia question: Who has beaten Livingstone’s men’s basketball team?
Elizabeth City State is now on that list as well. The Vikings (9-5, 2-2) came to packed Trent Gym on Thursday and left the building with an 80-79 double-overtime victory to frustrate the crowd and the weary Blue Bears, who aren’t far removed from a grueling road trip.
“Every time there came a time when we absolutely had to execute, we had a mishap,” Livingstone coach James Stinson said. “This was not indicative of how we’ve been playing.”
The visitors managed to win despite being smashed 26-11 in the often decisive offensive-boards category.
“We dominated the boards,” sighed LC veteran Tyler Johnson, who had 20 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out late in the action. “This was just a very tough game. Both teams played well, but only one was going to win it.”
Talented Angelo Sharpless, who came in averaging 22.8 points per game, scored 26 to carry the Vikings. Included in his total were a pair of decisive free throws with 13.2 seconds left in the second OT. Those free throws came when he fell on a baseline drive that appeared to draw limited contact.
“He got a few calls, but we’re not complaining,” Livingstone guard Mark Thomas said. “We lost this game when we had plenty of chances to win it.”
Livingstone didn’t get the clean look it wanted on its last, desperate possession.
Jody Hill was the first option off a high screen, but when he was cut off, Thomas wound up having to loft a heavily contested jumper over taller defenders from the right baseline. Thomas hit the rim with a couple of ticks left, and Livingstone got hands on the long rebound, but the Blue Bears’ long winning streak ended.
“Time was running down and I had to take that shot and just hope that maybe we’d get a tip,” said Thomas, who scored 18 points.
Livingstone (11-2, 3-1) had won eight straight since that Nov. 16 loss to Felician, but there were a lot of reasons it couldn’t put this one away — including 30-percent shooting in the second half, a 4-for-20 night on 3s and 14 of the Blue Bears’ 17 personal fouls being lumped on Johnson, Eladio Espinoza and Darnell Turner, who fouled out with 7:55 left in regulation.
“Free throws also hurt us again, and that’s been the Achilles heel all season,” Stinson said. “We missed easy chippies all night, and credit Elizabeth City with doing a tremendous job defensively. They took away our first option a lot.”
The Blue Bears, who played without injured big man Ethan Anderson, seemed on the verge of taking charge early when Thomas scored eight in two minutes for a 20-12 lead. But the shots stopped dropping, and the Blue Bears settled for a 31-30 halftime edge.
Omar Ford-Bey hit two free throws for a 63-61 Livingstone lead, but ECSU’s Dominique Byrd’s made a layup for the final points of regulation. The Blue Bears had the last possession but didn’t execute.
A free throw by Ford-Bey gave Livingstone a 69-67 lead with 11 seconds left in the first OT, but Sharpless drove the length of the court and went straight at the rim to score.
“Sharpless is special,” Stinson said. “And when they need to get the ball to him, they do.”
Sharpless was fouled as he laid the ball in, but he missed his free throw with four seconds left, and a second OT session was needed.
Livingstone actually jumped out 75-70 in the second OT, but Quintin Spady, who had not scored, nailed a wide-open 3, and Sharpless tied it up.
“When we get ahead like that we’ve got to keep going,” Johnson said. “But we let up. We got too passive.”
ELIZABETH CITY STATE (80) — Sharpless 26, Barber 10, Byrd 9, Price 8, Barek 6, Rice 4, Faulcon 3, Spady 3, Key 2, Jackson, Moore.
LIVINGSTONE (79) — T. Johnson 20, Thomas 18, Hill 13, Turner 10, Ford-Bey 7, Espinoza 5, Welch 4, King 2, Adams, Flint, C. Johnson, D. Johnson .
Eliz. City State 30 33 6 11— 80
Livingstone 31 32 6 10— 79