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College basketball: Livingstone men glad to be at home

The 2014-15 campaign for the Livingstone men started in late November by beating Rollins College and Johnston and Wales University in the Tipoff Classic at Johnson C. Smith in Charlotte. From there it was to Elizabeth City State for a tournament.

The Blue Bears played as far south as Augusta, Georgia, and as far north as Lincoln, Pennsylvania. The one place they have yet to play this season is New Trent Gym.

That changes at 7:30 p.m. Thursday when Livingstone hosts Elizabeth City State in CIAA action.

“That’s a very good thing,” head coach James Stinson said. “We haven’t been at home. I feel like the guys are looking forward to it. They’re road weary, but you can’t win a championship at home. So you have to be prepared to play on the road.”

There is a three-way tie for second place in the Southern Division among Livingstone (7-5, 1-2), Fayetteville State (7-6, 1-2) and Johnson C. Smith (7-7, 1-2). It’s a spot not many expected the Blue Bears to occupy after they won the conference championship last season.

Last year’s success played a role in this season’s predictions for a repeat.

“People put us as the No. 1 team, but losing 60 percent of your scoring makes a difference,” he said. “This team has to learn how to close out games at critical times.

“We want to be a transition team, but we have to understand the difference between a good shot and a better shot.”

Stinson said the Blue Bears have problems settling for the first available shot instead of working the shot clock and searching for easier opportunities.

Four of Livingstone’s last five games resulted in defeat. That includes three straight one-point losses to Paine College, Florida Tech and Bowie State. The Blue Bears, led by senior forward Eric Mayo’s 30 points and 10 rebounds, defeated Virginia Union on Saturday.

The success, however, was short lived. Lincoln — led by 18 points apiece from Joshua Davis and Quaman Burton — topped Livingstone 69-64 on Monday.

It’s reminiscent of a rough stretch in January 2014 when the Blue Bears lost back-to-back-to-back games to Elizabeth City State, Virginia State and Chowan.

“Last year, the team lost three in a row. We ended up 10-5,” Stinson said. “This time we did it earlier. We just couldn’t complete ball games.”

Mayo and junior guard Eric Dubose have been a pair of bright spots lately.

Dubose has scored 20 or more points in three of Livingstone’s last four games.

Mayo has averaged 21.7 points and 11 rebounds in the Blue Bears’ last three games. He is second in the conference in rebounds with 9 per game. Stinson said Mayo “kind of evolved into himself” this year after spending last season as a role player.

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