Little sets block record in Catawba upset

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 23, 2014

SALISBURY — Tyrece Little rejected a shot to start a fastbreak, and Catawba’s Elon Edwards tossed a lob to a soaring Kijuan Arrington for a rim-shaking slam.
The Goodman Gym crowd responded with a roar that shook the rim all over again, and it was like old times. The Indians led all the way and rolled SAC rival Wingate 90-77 on Wednesday night.
“Kijaun’s dunk was the loudest I’ve heard it since I’ve been here,” Edwards said. “I know we haven’t been doing so well, but we can still put it together.”
Little broke Chris Wooldridge’s program record for career blocked shots with his 178th, and Catawba looked great, especially in a blistering first half.
“For a junior to break a program record — well, that’s pretty good,” Catawba coach Jim Baker said. “Tyrece is getting most of those blocks coming to help his teammates.”
Catawba (5-10, 5-6) put six men in double figures and bore no resemblance to the team that was drilled 74-52 at Wingate (10-8, 7-4) or the team that laid an egg at Mars Hill Saturday.
“I was as embarrassed as I’ve ever been Saturday,” Baker said. “We had a prayer meeting. Then we pushed them hard in practice for two days, and they responded tonight.”
It’s a long season, so it’s difficult to play with fire every night, but Catawba was fierce for 20 minutes, running the floor and fighting defensively. Arrington’s ungodly dunk made it 12-4, and when Arrington (21 points) streaked to the rim for an easy one it was 16-6.
When the 6-foot-8 Little made a quick spin for two the lead was a dozen, and Reggie Perkins pushed the lead to 45-31 with a 3-pointer.
Edwards finished the half with two free throws, and the Indians bounced from the floor with a 52-37 lead.
“Coach has been killing us the past few days,” said Little, managing a weary smile. “We had no emotion at Mars Hill, but we played hard tonight and shared the ball. The coaches kept telling us, ‘Look what happens when you guys play together.’ ”
Wingate is good, so it still wasn’t easy. Adversity arrived early in the second half when Little was assessed his third foul and sat.
The game changed with Little on the bench. Wingate pounded the ball inside to Deion Turman, Ryan Daye got going, and Catawba’s lead began to shrink.
Baker resisted the temptation to bring Little back too quickly. He would sit for 11 minutes, all the way down to the 8-minute mark.
“As long as we had the lead, we were OK, and we never lost it,” Baker said. “Playing some zone helped us slow them down a little.”
Catawba led only 63-57 when the Bulldogs missed an open 3-pointer with 12 minutes left. Then Vismantas Marijosius hit a jumper, and Arrington scored left-handed with an NBA spin.
Tough drives by Edwards, who had seven assists and one turnover, and Andrew Ingram propelled the Indians back to a safe lead.

WINGATE (77) — Daye 19, Turman 18, Parker 8, Benjamin 8, Dominguez 7, Cureton 6, D. Griffin 6, X. Griffin 5, Crown, Hilliard, Clyburn.
CATAWBA (90) — Arrington 21, Perkins 13, Edwards 13, Little 12, Marijosius 11, Sampah 10, Ingram 6, Warren 4, Houston, Byrd.
Wingate 37 40 — 77
Catawba 52 38 — 90