Livingstone tops Paine in men’s home opener

Published 10:20 pm Tuesday, December 5, 2017

By David Shaw

SALISBURY — Coach James Stinson and the Livingstone men’s basketball team delivered more than a worthy victory in Tuesday night’s home opener. They delivered hope.

An 88-73 non-conference win against Paine College had the Blue Bears talking about the long haul, about playing sound team defense throughout the winter and laying out a blueprint for a successful season.

“If we can keep doing this and keep our bigs playing aggressively, we’ll be all right,” Stinson said after Livingstone (1-2) won its first game.”If anything, we’ve got to get them to play better around the rim.”

Livingstone’s big men — 6-9 freshmen Navar and Lydell Elmore — were a combined 7-for-10 from the floor and were enough of a factor to warrant an unsolicited comment from Paine coach Darryl Stinson. “Especially that No. 33 (Lydell),” he said. “He was a difference-maker back there, blocking shots and forcing us away from the basket.”

Livingstone’s roster includes only four seniors, but its cards may be worth keeping. The Blue Bears shot 50.8 percent from the field (30-for-59), forced 20 turnovers and out-rebounded Paine (1-7) by a 41-30 margin.

“Our bench play really saved us,” senior guard Cameron Burhannon said, after contributing 25 points and nine rebounds in 28 minutes. “When the second five came in, that’s when we had all that energy. They gave all of us a boost.”

Livingstone trailed, 32-23, after Paine’s Deshawndric Nelms pulled up for a short jump shot from inside the lane with 6:28 remaining in the first half.  The Blue Bears responded with a 14-2 run — launched when Ramel Belfield canned a 3-pointer from right corner and capped when Burhannon knocked down another 3-ball from the top of the key — as the half buzzed to a close. Burhannon took a pass from 5-8 teammate Roger Ray — who was mistakenly double-teamed on the play — measured a 21-foot shot and let it go, giving LC a 37-34 lead it never relinquished.

“I knew the clock was running down and I needed to get off a shot,” Burhannon said, after making nine of 12 field goal attempts. “I saw the double-team coming and knew (Ray) was gonna kick it to me.”

“It was supposed to be a different play,” Ray added, after netting 21 points and collecting eight assists. “They were trapping me off a screen and the big guy (the 6-8 Nelms), for some reason, stayed with me.”

Paine, which trailed by as many as 16 points in the waning moments, mounted a comeback charge early in the second half when Babe Murphy’s 3-pointer drew the guests within 42-41. But again the Blue Bears answered, this time reeling off 10 straight points and using a 14-1 scoring spree to go up 56-42 with 13 minutes to play. Included was an over/under baseline layup by Navar Elmore and Lydell’s two-handed jam just moments later.

“Our goal was to go inside and utilize our big people,” LC’s Stinson said. “The Elmores are very athletic, just not that strong. But all the fast-breaking enabled us to get a couple of good looks. You know me, I don’t really love a whole lot of fast break, but we’ll take it if the opportunity is there.”

Paine was led by Phillip Garner’s 22 points. The junior guard hit five 3-pointers in a four-minute span as the Lions built a commanding first-half lead. Teammates Johnnie Robinson III and and Murphy each scored 14 points.

“We played well in the first half, but in the second, we let them go,” said Paine’s Stinson. “We were trying to battle, trying to trade basket for basket, but couldn’t keep up with them. They played really good defense — just got down low and guarded us.”

The victory helped ease the sting of Livingstone’s two season-opening losses — 104-60 to Queens and 81-78 to Benedict in last month’s J.C. Smith Tipoff Classic in Charlotte.

“This was definitely better,” said Ray, LC’s leading scorer with a 19.7 points-per-game average. “I think we just needed to play. Once we got the butterflies out, we were good to go.”

NOTES: Another telling statistic: the Blue Bears shot a blistering 59.3 percent from the field (16-for-27) in the second half, when they outscored Paine, 51-39. … LC was 7-for-13 on three-point shots, sparked by Burhannon, who went 3-for-3 from downtown. … Livingstone plays at Lander on Saturday afternoon. After taking a week off for final exams, it plays again at home on Dec. 16, a CIAA tilt with Virginia Union.

PAINE (73) — Robinson 14, Bide 6, Murphy 14, Evans 7, Nelms 9, Garner 22, Gaines 1, Whittington, Wheatley, McCoy, Clarke Jr.

LIVINGSTONE (88) — Burhannon 25, Ray 21, Lewis, N. Elmore 8, Patterson 2, McClendon 4, Moore, Belfield 13, Walker, Livingston 2, L. Elmore 6, McNeill 3, Smith, Stallworth 4.

Paine (Ga.)             34    39 — 73

Livingstone            37     51 — 88