Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 24, 2013
SALISBURY — Catawba’s men’s basketball team was losing an early-season game when it struck coach Jim Baker that he had 50 points sitting next to him on the bench, guys unavailable after a strange series of injuries and suspensions.
The Indians dropped their first four outings, but they were a lot closer to playing with a full deck on Saturday, and they wore out SAC opponent Mars Hill 94-69 at Goodman Gym.
“We’ve had some really good teams here,” Baker said. “We’re close to being really good again.”
It was Baker’s 338th career victory, and not many of them have been easier. It was just about over at halftime with the Indians leading comfortably 51-31.
Catawba put Kijuan Arrington (15 points), Chance Rucker (15), Tyrece Little (14), Reggie Perkins (14) and Vismantius Marijosius (10) in double figures. Marijosius, a North Hills product, wore a mask to protect a broken nose he sustained in the opener.
“We’ve been without some key players,” Catawba sophomore Julian Sampah explained. “But we’ve got our depth back now, and we’re starting to figure things out.”
When Sampah, who is known more for his shotblocking than his offense, made a running one-hander as he elevated across the lane, it probably was time for Mars Hill (0-4, 0-2) to get the bus started.
“Julian’s offense is coming around,” said Little, a 6-foot-8 veteran. “We work hard against each other in practice, and if he can score against me, he can score in this league.”
Catawba shot 67 percent in achieving that big halftime lead. At halftime, Rucker was 4-for-4, while Perkins was 4-for-5.
“Catawba played a really good game and, gosh, they just weren’t missing anything they shot in the first half,” said 6-6 Isaiah Cuthbertson, a West Rowan graduate playing his first season at Mars Hill.
Catawba was accurate in the first half because it was getting ideal shots. It got repeated open 3s by working inside-out.
“When we got beat at Wingate on Wednesday, we just didn’t play together as a team very well.” Little said. “We spent the last two practices working on sharing the basketball, and today we were a lot better. We’re still not fully loaded yet, but we’re getting healthier.”
Catawba freshman guard Andrew Ingram is still out, and 6-9 Troy Warren is limited by an ankle injury, but the Indians (1-4, 1-1) had more than enough to overwhelm Mars Hill.
Catawba never trailed, but it led just 20-18 when a 3-pointer by Perkins sparked a 12-minute run of solid basketball.
The 6-5 Arrington drained a heavily defended 3-pointer to push the lead to 34-23, and he knocked down another 3 for a 43-25 advantage.
When Jalen Byrd whistled a nice bounce pass through traffic to Rucker for a layup, the Indians were up 20 at the break.
The highlights of the second half were a resounding dunk by the athletic Rucker, a Concord product, a sweet three-point play by Little, and a free throw by crowd favorite Eddie Bishop, who practically beamed when Baker called his number for the final minutes.
“We ran the court, we shared the ball, and we attacked the basket,” Baker said. “It was a really good day for us.”
Jalen Witherspoon’s 12 points led Mars Hill.
MARS HILL (69) — Witherspoon 12, Wright 11, Anderson 9, Cuthbertson 6, Hylton 6, Williams 5, Charge 5, Haynes 5, White 4, Abuhawwas 3, Polston 3.
CATAWBA (94) — Arrington 15, Rucker 15, Perkins 14, Little 14, Marijosius 10, Sampah 9, Byrd 8, Edwards 4, Warren 2, Emerson 2, Bishop 1, Houston, Watson, Henderson, Mayo.
Mars Hill 31 38 — 69
Catawba 51 43 — 94