PINEVILLE, La. – The Louisiana College men’s basketball team led for most of the second half, poised for a second home win over a team receiving votes in the d3hoops.com top 25 poll, but it wasn’t to be as a late seven-point push by (RV) East Texas Baptist proved to be just enough in the Wildcats 84-81 loss to the Tigers Thursday night at H.O. West Fieldhouse.
Bolstered by a raucous atmosphere inside H.O. West Fieldhouse, the Wildcats overcame a slow start that saw them down by as much as 11 points during the first 20 minutes. Trailing 26-16 with just more than eight minutes left before the break, Jaylen Rhone got to the paint and flipped in a shot that set the Wildcats off on a 17-4 run that he eventually finished off as well with another lay-up with 2:30 left before the break that gave LC a 33-30 lead. The two teams went to the halftime locker room tied at 38-38.
The Wildcats again found themselves trailing early in the second half as the Tigers opened the period on a 9-2 push to open up a seven-point advantage. After trading buckets out of a timeout to make it 49-42 ETBU, the Wildcat offense really got clicking as a three-pointer by KJ Bilbo sent LC off on a 22-9 run that Denzel Austin finished off with a three-pointer of his own that made the score 64-55 Wildcats with just less than 10:30 left in the game.
ETBU slowly pulled that lead back over the next few minutes to reclaim the lead and set up the furious finish. With the game tied at 75-75 and less than two minutes left, Kae’ron Baker made it look good for the home side as his three-point shot rattled home. However, the Tigers responded on the other end with a bucket and foul that tied the game again on a three-point play, which kicked off the deciding 7-0 push for the Tigers. C.J. Murphy gave the Wildcats hope with a three-pointer with three seconds left to make it a one-point game, but two ETBU free throws and a heave at the buzzer that bounced off of the back iron ended LC’s hopes for the win.
Jr. G Kae’ron Baker had another stellar night, hitting ten shots, six of which were threes, for 26 points. He also grabbed six rebounds and had two assists and two steals. Sr. G Jaylen Rhone added 16 points on seven of 12 shooting. Sr. G Denzel Austin and So. F K.D. Wallace each finished the night with 11 points to round out the Wildcats leading scorers.
Louisiana College finished the night hitting 46.4% from the field in the contest, including a scorching 59.1% (13/22) from beyond the arc. One of the key issues though was LC’s inability to draw contact and get free throws, going four of six at the line while ETBU got to the charity stripe 22 times and made 20 of those attempts.
The Wildcats (10-6, 4-3 ASC) look to rebound at home on Saturday as LeTourneau comes to town for a mid-afternoon affair. Tip-off against the Yellow Jackets (12-4, 5-2 ASC) is set for 3:00 P.M. at H.O. West Fieldhouse.