Catawba falls in overtime to Carson-Newman
SALISBURY — At this rate the Catawba men’s basketball team will have only one place to go comes March — home.
Despite playing shutdown defense against one of the SAC’s best shooting teams on Saturday, the Indians fell 63-58 in overtime to visiting Carson-Newman.
“It’s terrible, a terrible feeling,” junior Tyrece Little said after Catawba (5-13, 5-9) lost for the fifth time in its last six games and anchored itself deeper in ninth place. “It breaks your heart.”
It did. If Catawba was feeling the heat beforehand — only the top eight finishers qualify for next month’s conference tournament — it hardly showed. The Indians spent much of the game playing with inspiration and focus. They performed at a leisurely, Sunday-morning pace and held C-N (12-6, 9-5), a team that averages better than 80 points-per-contest, well below its season average. Not until the guests outscored Catawba 8-3 in the extra session was the outcome settled.
“If we can just learn not to beat ourselves, we’ll be a much better team,” coach Jim Baker said after Catawba dropped its second consecutive OT decision. “They’re nice kids but I can’t get a good read on them. They’re like the tide, in-and-out, in-and-out.”
Little, a 6-foot-8 forward from Greenville, provided the mojo for the Indians. He contributed 16 points, 14 rebounds and a couple of blocked shots. Teammate Kijuan Arrington added 16 points, three assists and played hermetically sealed defense against C-N’s Antoine Davis, the SAC’s third-leading scorer (20.8 ppg).
“Last time we played them (in a 62-60 loss on Dec. 7) I held him to zero points in the first half,” Arrington said after Davis shot 1-for-10 from the field and totaled eight points. “In the second half he was picking his spots and hit some shots. So I watched film on him and studied him. Today I was always a step ahead of him. I knew his tendencies and could read the play.”
Davis, an aggressive 6-5 senior forward, felt like a racehorse whose gate wouldn’t open. “They played tough ‘D’ on me,” he said. “Every time I touched it in the post, they were on me. I forced a couple of bad shots, but for the most part they denied me pretty good.”
Catawba led 28-24 early in the second half before a costly spell of sloppiness — three straight turnovers and an ill-advised shot — sparked an 11-0 C-N run. “If we had kept playing defense, that would never have happened,” Arrington noted.
The Indians spent the rest of the half playing catch-up and finally did when Little muscled for a layup with 51 seconds remaining in regulation and freshman Jalen Byrd completed a game-tying three-point play with 10.2 seconds on the clock.
“At that point we had taken the momentum right back from them,” Little said. “We were hungry for the win.”
Instead of rising to the occasion the Indians fell and missed all six of their field goal attempts in overtime. It left Baker, a guy with 342 career wins printed on the back of his bubble gum card, searching for No. 343.
“We’re right there,” he said, holding two fingers an inch apart. “We’ve just got to get some wins. We’ve got to get over beating ourselves.”
NOTES: Catawaba has eight conference games remaining, beginning Wednesday night when eighth-place Queens visits. … The Indians are 2-2 in overtime games. … China Grove’s Nick Houston made a couple of 3-pointers and finished with 10 points off the bench. Byrd added 10, giving Catawba four scorers in double figures. … The Harlem Globetrotters will bring their basketball circus to Goodman Gym on March 19.
CARSON-NEWMAN (63) — Johnson 15, Sanders 13, Brooks 12, Davis 8, Williams 5, Burke 5, Likely 4, Rogers 1.
CATAWBA (58) — Arrington 16, Little 16, Byrd 10, Houston 10, Warren 2, Perkins 2, Marijosiu 2, Edwards, Ingram, Sampah.
Carson-Newman 22 33 8 — 63
Catawba 25 30 3 — 58