ALEXANDRIA—A late run by No. 9 Talladega sent the LSUA men’s basketball team to an early end to its season, as No. 19 LSUA fell 77-68 in the first round of the NAIA Tournament on Friday evening at the Rapides Parish Coliseum.
LSUA was on the verge of knocking out the favored Tornadoes as Nashaun Ellis stole a pass from Trevon Adams and went in for the one-handed slam to give the Generals a 60-51 advantage.
Ellis had 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting. The shots made and attempted were tied for the most on the team. He also chipped in with a pair of assists and a team-high seven rebounds.
But Talladega is ranked in the top 10 for a reason, making five of its next six shots, including four triples to go on a game-changing 14-1 run to counter punch LSUA’s run. The first eight points and two of the 3-pointers were drilled by Darryl Baker, who finished with 16 points, tied for a game-high.
For the game, Talladega finished the game on a 26-8 run, cementing the win at the charity stripe, making seven of its nine free throws down the stretch.
“I have to credit Talladega for how talented and well-coached they are,” LSUA Men’s Basketball Coach Larry Cordaro said. “They were one of the better two seeds in the country.
“But the game was right there for us. It slipped out of our hands. I didn’t do enough down the stretch, whether it be a timeout or an adjustment. We couldn’t come up with a stop or a timely score down the stretch.”
It was a solid ending offensively to the Red River Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year Rodney Munson, who led the Generals with 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting.
LSUA was locked in defensively to begin the contest, allowing just nine points in the first 10:50 of the game. Unfortunately, LSUA could not take advantage against one of the top defenses in the country and only led 13-9.
With the game tied at 17, Talladega embarked on a 9-0 run to put some distance between itself and LSUA. The Generals spent much of the rest of the game playing catch-up.
LSUA showed signs of life at the end of the half, cutting an eight-point deficit down to three at intermission. After a pair of free throws by Jakemin Abney, Munson made a difficult 3-pointer as the horn sounded and LSUA railed 30-27.
Talladega came out of the locker room with a spark, scoring on its first four possessions of the second half, as it began a run that helped the Tornadoes stretch the lead to 48-40, the most it had been since a few minutes remained in the first half.
The crowd, in addition to hot shooting by the Generals, jump started a 20-3 run to give the No. 3 seed a nine-point edge with five minutes to play.
Free throws got them going, as Jevon Berry and Ellis combined for five to begin the run. Four players scored during that extended run that spanned 7:29.
Ellis had six during the stretch and Dustin Roy led the team with seven. After five free throws, Ellis stepped up and buried a triple to tie the contest. It was immediately followed by a steal and layup and a triple from the right wing by Roy. The crowd was into the game.
It was even more into it after a bucket and foul by Munson, who drove to the bucket without much resistance before being fouled while scoring. A pair of Roy free throws and Ellis’ steal and one-handed punch put LSUA in front by nine.
But the Generals had trouble scoring in the final five minutes, scoring just eight points, to help Talladega come back and advance to Saturday’s contest against top-seeded Loyola (La) to decide who goes to Kansas City.
The back-breaker for LSUA was a dish to Amir Yusuf down low for a layup and foul. Tony Hutson corralled the offensive rebound for the Tornadoes, and Baker nailed his third and final 3-pointer to put the game away with 1:02 remaining.
Rebounds killed LSUA, as Talladega, one of the top rebounding teams in the nation, held the edge 44-32. They grabbed 12 offensive rebounds, which is actually three below their average, which is second in the country.
Yusuf was the biggest culprit, grabbing a game-high 19 rebounds in addition to scoring 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting.