PINEVILLE, La. – Seeing the Louisiana College men’s basketball team down ten in the second half, senior guard Kae’ron Baker put his team on his back, scoring 24 points in the second half alone to will the Wildcats to a 79-73 win over the Sul Ross State Lobos Saturday afternoon at H.O. West Fieldhouse.
The tale of the match-up with the Lobos was slow starts and big recoveries by the Wildcats as Sul Ross started both halves with big runs, only to see LC pull it back to lead at the buzzer. In the first half, the initial Lobo run was 7-0 before Kae’ron Baker got the Wildcats on the board little more than 2:30 into the contest.
Sul Ross’s first half lead would peak at nine points, 25-16, with just less than ten minutes left in the period before the Wildcats started to reel the Lobos back in. Baker split a pair at the free throw line to kick off a 12-2 Wildcats run which gave LC its first lead of the contest as Galen Smith, Jr. put back a missed shot to give the Wildcats a 28-27 lead with less than 5:30 remaining in the first half. LC led by as much as three in the closing minutes of the first half. Baker gave the Wildcats the lead heading into the locker room as he hit a pair of free throws with 12 seconds left to make it 37-36 LC at half.
But much like the first half, the second half started with a big SRSU run as the Lobos put up the first eight points of the period to take a 44-37 lead right out of the gate. The run would stretch out to 13-2 and give the Lobos the largest lead of the game for either team at 49-39 with 14 minutes left in the contest.
Then the Wildcats started to slowly work the deficit down. A made free throw by Ferontay Banks and a three by Baker gave made it a six-point game. After several back-and-forth possessions, LC made its big run to take control of the game. Trailing 54-48, Galen Smith, Jr. attacked the rim for a lay-up that jump started a 14-1 Wildcats run that gave LC the lead for good. A Kae’ron Baker steal turned into an easy two points of Malik Cooper with just more than four minutes left to give the Wildcats their largest lead of the contest at 69-62.
Sul Ross had one last push that cut the Louisiana College lead down to two with less than two minutes left, but it was Baker who had the dagger as his three-point attempt hit paydirt to make it 76-71. Baker and Smith closed out the game at the free throw line from there to secure the win.
“I’m very proud of how our guys competed after being down ten in the second half,” said Louisiana College Athletic Director and Head Men’s Basketball Coach Reni Mason. “Every team develops its own character and I thought we showed a lot of toughness today. Sul Ross deserves a lot of credit, and I have a lot of respect for their program and players. They play the game the right way.”
Kae’ron Baker’s 35 point outburst tied his career high, which he achieved almost a year ago to the day against Mary Hardin-Baylor. He was ten of 26 from the field and two of nine from deep, and not only found a way to get to the free throw line, but made the trips count by going 13 of 14 at the stripe. He also grabbed five rebounds, dished out three assists, came up with three steals, and blocked a shot.
“I told [Kae’ron Baker] before the game that I thought he played the worst game of his career on Thursday night and I needed him to respond, and he did in a big way,” continued Mason. “He did what good players do and stepped up to the challenge in a big way. I’m very proud of him for that.”
Three other Wildcats came out of the game with double figures in points, paced by Malik Cooper who finished with 14 points on six of nine shooting with a pair of free throws attempted and made. Galen Smith, Jr. ended up with 12 points, making four field goals and free throws apiece. KD Wallace rounded out the leading scorers for LC with ten points on the night. Trey Ames was big down low with a team-high seven rebounds and blocked two Lobo shots.
Louisiana College finished the game shooting 41.7% from the field, doing most of the work inside. Defense was also key as the Wildcats turned 21 Lobo turnovers into 25 points while the LC offense took care of the ball, turning it over just 11 times that turned into 12 points for SRSU (3-5, 1-2 ASC)
The Wildcats (2-0, 2-0 ASC) head out on the road for the first time in 2020-21, heading out for a date with Mary Hardin-Baylor. Tip-off against the Crusaders (3-3, 0-0 ASC) is set for 7:30 P.M. at the Mayborn Center in Belton, Texas.