Published 12:00 am Friday, December 6, 2013

SALISBURY — Undefeated Livingstone is ranked 13th in Division II, a lofty status that makes certain the Blue Bears get everyone’s best shot.
Livingstone struggled with fired-up Morehouse most of Thursday night at New Trent Gym, but the Blue Bears forced 26 turnovers and won 72-64 to improve to 5-0.
“We haven’t played like we’re No. 13 yet,” relieved Livingstone coach James Stinson said. “But I am proud that we fought and endured.”
Livingstone had a fight on its hands because high-scoring guards Mark Thomas and Jody Hil both were off. Usually, they’re good for a combined 31. On this night, they had nine each.
Stepping forward were undersized power forward Eric Mayo who dunked his way to 18 points and 10 boards, and talented guard Eric Dubose, who bounded off the bench to score 13. Christian Henry added 12 points.
D’Anthony Relaford scored 17 to lead four scorers in double figures for Morehouse (2-4), which traveled to Salisbury from Atlanta.
Because of injuries, Livingstone is playing small, with three guards often joining the 6-foot-6 Henry and the 6-4 Mayo on the floor, so Stinson knew Morehouse might be trouble.
“Morehouse is better than its record and played very well against N.C. State,” Stinson said. “Morehouse has good players inside — long, athletic players.”
Livingstone dug an 11-2 hole, shot an ugly 29 percent in the first half and trailed 38-31 at the break.
“Coach chewed us out pretty good at halftime,” said Mayo, who kept the Blue Bears in the game.
Stinson was handed a halftime stat sheet that revealed that the Blue Bears had recorded one measly assist in the first 20 minutes. That was a stat that shouted that every Blue Bear had been a solo act.
“I think we played probably the worst half of basketball that’s been played since they opened the gym,” Dubose said. “But we were just down seven. That let us know we could make a run.”
It got worse. When Morehouse’s Cornez Nesbitt slammed with 13 minutes left, the Blue Bears were down a dozen, the deepest hole of the night. But 15 seconds later, the tide turned on a ferocious Mayo dunk.
“My job is to bring energy,” Mayo said. “On that dunk, Anthony Welch made a great pass. I didn’t think he saw me, but he did and I went up as strong as I could. That got our momentum going.”
Suddenly Dubose was drilling shots from all over. His 3-pointer off a nice pass by Thomas cut the deficit to six. Then Mayo got loose inside, and then Dubose buried a jumper, and the Blue Bears were down two.
It was Thomas who finally put the Blue Bears in front 58-57 with a clutch, wing 3-pointer. Emmari Bailey made the pass to him.
“I told Thomas a big shot would be coming, and he needed to make it,” Stinson said. “He squared his shoulders, released at the highest point of his jump and knocked it down.”
On Livingstone’s next possession, Dubose set up Hill for a 3-point look. Hill drilled it, the crowd went crazy, and the Blue Bears were on their way.

MOREHOUSE (64) — Relaford 17, Nesbitt 14, Brown 12, Buchannon 10, Anderson 5, Simmons 2, Turner 2, Askew 2, Walker, Barrett.
LIVINGSTONE (72) — Mayo 18, Dubose 13, Henry 12, Hill 9, Thomas 9, Bailey 8, Welch 2, Johnson 1, Okam, Lefear, Flint.

Morehouse 38 26 — 64
Livingstone 31 41 — 72