College basketball: Catawba men stop skid with free throws

Published 10:33 pm Saturday, January 26, 2019

 Staff report

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. — Catawba’s men’s basketball team found the perfect way to end a three-game losing streak.

By being perfect at the foul line.

Catawba went 28-for-28 on free throws in Saturday afternoon’s 72-55 South Atlantic Conference win at Tusculum.

“Well, we’ve been working on it,” Catawba coach Rob Perron said. “Guys did a great job at the line. After we hadn’t missed one for a while,  our bench was kind of like a baseball dugout when a no-hitter is in progress. No one wanted to talk about it.”

The Indians’ foul-shooting prowess was historic. That 28-for-28 tied for the third-best free-throw shooting performance in Division II history.

Guard Devin Cooper had the biggest hand in the flawless foul-shooting effort. He went 13-for-13. Malik Constantine was 6-for-6. Jordan McElveen made all five of his attempts. Carter Phillips and Daquan Lilly were 2-for-2.

Cooper is a 90-percent foul shooter for the season and ranks second in the SAC.

Catawba (14-5, 7-4) didn’t have a super shooting game from the field (40.4 percent), but won with relative ease, and there aren’t many easy SAC road games.

Tusculum (9-10, 5-6) shot dismally, 25 percent from the field and 2-for-22 on 3-pointers. Catawba defenders had something to do with that.

“We played some of our better defense today,” Perron said. “We did a good job of guarding the perimeter. Most of their 3-pointers were heavily contested or they were late in the shot clock. We didn’t allow many blow-bys, and when we did, Jeremy McLaughlin, Lilly and Constantine did a nice job of protecting the rim. We like to say that defense travels. You’re not always going to shoot well on the road, so you have give a lot of effort defensively.”

Cooper’s accuracy at the foul line enabled him to lead the Indians with 17 points. McElveen scored 13, Constantine had 11, and Lilly scored 10.

It was a low-turnover day for both teams, with Catawba committing 10 and Tusculum 11.

Even without Ben Zemonek (wrist), Catawba was in control at halftime, 34-19, and was able to maintain a comfortable cushion.

Catawba won an emotional game with Lincoln Memorial on Jan. 12 before losing an emotional one-point game with Queens, which is ranked ninth in Division II. Next came consecutive road games at upper-tier SAC teams Anderson, Lenoir-Rhyne, both losses. On the road again Saturday, the Indians got back on track and swept the season series from the Pioneers.

The Indians will finally be back home on Wednesday against Newberry.

“Before this season even started, it wasn’t hard for the coaching staff to  identify that this was going to be our toughest stretch,” Perron said. “Lincoln Memorial, then Queens, then three road games. We’ve been digging big holes in the first 10 minutes lately, but we finally jumped out early today.”

CATAWBA (72) — Cooper 17, McElveen 13, Constantine 11, Lilly 10, Haskett 8, Taylor 6, Phillips 5, Curry 2, Robinson, McLaughlin, Barber, Whitfield, Johnson.

TUSCULUM (55) — Gibson 18, Donaldson 11, Smith 7, Jenkins 7, Mitchell 6, Hodnett 2, Cohen 2, King 1, Jones 1.

Catawba     34   38 —  72

Tusculum  19   36   — 55