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College basketball: Indians win on the road

By Mike London
mike.london@salisburypost.com

ANDERSON, S.C. — The regular season continues for Catawba’s men’s basketball team until Feb. 24, but a sense of urgency permeated Saturday’s 77-65 South Atlantic Conference win at Anderson.

“We’re basically playing elimination games now,” Catawba coach Rob Perron said. “To put it in track terms, our bell lap already has started.”

Even with Saturday’s road victory, Catawba (7-13 overall) is only 4-11 in the SAC. There are 11 teams in the league. The top eight will qualify for the conference tournament. Catawba has little margin for error now and may have to win four of its remaining five game SAC games just to squeeze into that top eight.

Catawba was too injury-plagued and too young to be any good early in the season. The Indians shot below 40 percent frequently and kicked away a series of winnable home games, including one against Anderson, when the Trojans visited Goodman Gym in mid-December.

“One of our worst efforts,” Perron said. “That one left a bad taste.”

Catawba is still injury-plagued, but the younger players have improved, and Catawba has played much better basketball  the last few weeks.  Some of Catawba’s strongest outings have come in recent close losses to Lincoln Memorial, Queens and Wingate, three of the league’s best four teams.

“We are playing a lot better and shooting a lot better,” Perron said. “I know all the guys are sick of playing well and still losing, but this is still a very connected team. These guys care about each other.. They’re still playing hard for each other.”

Post man Jeremy McLaughlin had a career game on Saturday, scoring 23 points with great efficiency. He was 8-for-9 from the field and 7-for-10 from the foul line.

“He played with a lot of confidence and he made his free throws,” Perron said. “They never doubled him, so we just kept going to him. He had one nasty dunk and he was scoring off of a lot different actions.”

Quick guard Jordan Barber also had  a sensational outing, shooting 4-for-5 on 3-pointers, scoring 14 points and harassing Anderson’s guards into mistakes. Barber played a key role in Catawba’s 23-13 turnover advantage.

“Barber made timely 3-pointers and he was a terror on defense,” Perron said. “Anderson’s best two handlers (Randall Shaw and Maurice Howard) had 12 turnovers and no assists. We were able to execute on some traps that they hadn’t seen, and Barber did a very nice job.”

Jerrin Morrison scored 16 for the Indians, while Gage Ellis led the Trojans (7-15, 5-9) with 23 points.

Even with Catawba dominating the turnover battle, victory wasn’t routine.

Anderson led at halftime, 38-37, and stretched the lead to 44-37 four minutes into the second half.

Anderson peaked with a 10-point lead with 10:33 remaining, but that’s when Barber made one of his timely 3-pointers to turn the tide.

McLaughlin dunked with 4:39 remaining for a 65-64 Catawba lead. Malik Constantine made two free throws after a technical was called on Shaw, and McLaughlin followed with three more free throws for a 70-64 Catawba lead.

When Constantine got loose for a dunk at the 2:13 mark, the Indians led by double digits, and they were on their way.

“Constantine and R.J. Robinson really played well  in the second half after not having great first halves,” Perron said. “And everyone showed composure.We finished well.”

Catawba is home against Lenoir-Rhyne on Wednesday night.

CATAWBA (77) — McLaughlin 23, Morrison 16, Barber 14,  Constantine 11, Robinson 5,  Johnson 2, Cannon 2, Phillips 2, Jeffers 2, Lentz.

ANDERSON (65) — Ellis 23, Bouton 15, Taylor 11, Howard 6, Jeffords 4, Shaw 4, Livingston 2, Jefferies, Boynton, Durham.

Catawba    37   40   — 77

Anderson  38  27   — 65

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