No. 3 LMU hammers Catawba, 90-61

Published 8:29 pm Saturday, January 20, 2018

By David Shaw

SALISBURY — There’s nothing wrong with a kick in the behind — as long as you’re facing the right direction.

So while the Catawba men’s basketball team fell flat on its face against nationally-ranked (No. 3) Lincoln Memorial on Saturday, it seemed to be moving forward.

“We’re all college basketball players,” senior Jerrin Morrison said at Goodman Gym, where the Indians dropped a 90-61 decision to the South Atlantic Conference frontrunner. “Numbers and rankings don’t mean anything once the game starts. You still have to come out and play.”

That was the problem for Catawba (5-11, 2-9). It shot only 29 percent from the field, missed its first 15 three-point attempts and lost for the sixth time in its last eight games.

“They scored 90 points, but honestly, it felt like a lot less than that,” said upbeat Catawba coach Rob Perron. “It was our bad offense that led to a lot of points. With nine minutes left in the first half, it was anybody’s ballgame. And a lot of that was because we didn’t make any open threes. They dared Malik (Constantine) and John McRae to shoot the three. It turned into a mind game for those two guys.”

Perron is right about keeping things interesting for a while. Injury-plagued Catawba landed the game’s first volley when McRae scored on a pair of stuffs in the first minute and 20 seconds. Constantine’s hook shot from the left side tied the score 13-13 with 11:30 remaining in the first half. And even with eight minutes left in the half, Morrison’s stick-back from the right side kept the Indians within 21-15.

“We played poorly,” LMU coach Josh Schertz said, after the Railsplitters (17-1, 11-0) won their sixth straight game. “And we were fortunate. We won this game on talent. If it was based on toughness and aggressiveness — which usually wins games — Catawba would have beaten us.”

That’s muscular talk from a coach whose team has enjoyed a Sherman’s march through the conference. Lincoln Memorial didn’t play its best — and the game statistics elucidate as much. It shot 46.7 percent from the field — a notch below its 55.3 season average — and made just eight 3-pointers. It had averaged 12.5 per outing through 16 games.

“We rebounded with them. We hustled with them. We just couldn’t make those threes,” Perron said, after Catawba finished 5-for-29 from downtown. “They’re top five in the country for a reason. You make mistakes and they make you pay for them.”

LMU took control of the game late in the opening half, beginning when 6-foot-9 senior Emanuel Terry scored on a windmill jam with seven minutes on the clock. It launched a 20-6 scoring burst that put the guests ahead by 19 points at halftime.

“We executed in the first part of the game,” said Constantine, the 6-6 forward who finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds. “But then our offense got stagnant. They made their open shots, we missed ours.”

Catawba missed all 10 of its three-point tries in the first half and didn’t connect from long distance until freshman Carter Phillips hit from the left side with 14:40 to play. By then the outcome was a foregone conclusion. LMU opened 35-point leads on three occasions in the second half — the last when guard Cornelius Taylor (22 points) took a bounce pass from teammate Rhondi Hackett and scored on a back-door layup, providing a 75-40 advantage with 6:40 remaining.

Morrison, the SAC’s second-leading scorer this winter, used a strong finish to close the game with a game-high 23 points and nine rebounds. Hit buried three 3-pointers and netted 15 points during a three-and-a-half-minute binge late in the match.

“The thing with me is, we were losing,” he said after shooting 9-for-19 from the field. “Doesn’t matter what the score is. If there’s and open three, if there’s open space, I’m going to take that shot.”

Catawba could have used considerably more of that, but finished just 22-for-76 from the floor. Perhaps the most glowing compliment the Indians received came post-game from Schertz.

“We won’t take any deep satisfaction from this,” he said. “Credit Catawba for that.”

NOTES: Catawba bounces from one pressure cooker to another when it hosts former No. 1 Queens University on Wednesday night. The Royals (18-1, 10-1 SAC) are ranked fourth in the country and suffered their only loss against Lincoln Memorial, 73-72, on Jan. 13. … LMU converted 26-of-35 free throws and placed four scorers in double figures. … Phillips shot 3-for-6 from the field, sank two 3-pointers and totaled eight points for Catawba. Teammate Henderson Lentz, a North Rowan graduate, contributed six points in nine minutes of mop-up duty.

LMU (90) — Taylor 22, Pinson 14, Ferguson 13, Shaw 11, Terry 9, Dahling 8, Hackett 7, Patterson 4, Odem 2, Perriere, Calhoun, Smith.

CATAWBA (61) — Morrison 23, Constantine 15, Phillips 8, Lentz 6, McRae 5, McLaughlin 2, Cannon 2, Jeffers, Robinson, Childress, Johnson.

Lincolon Memorial    41   49  — 90

Catawba                       22   39  — 61