EARLY DEFICIT TOO MUCH TO OVERCOME AS LIONS FALL TO BUFFS, 70-60
West Texas A&M 70, A&M-Commerce 60
Location: The Field House • Commerce, Texas
Records: A&M-Commerce (7-16, 2-13 LSC); West Texas A&M (16-6, 10-5 LSC)
Up Next: at Eastern New Mexico • Saturday, February 18 • 5 p.m.
COMMERCE, Texas – A&M-Commerce's postseason chances took another hit Wednesday evening as an early 16-0 run by West Texas A&M gave the Buffs a lead they would never relinquish as the Lions drop their fourth-straight game 70-60 at the Field House.
Preston Whitley led three A&M-Commerce scorers in double figures, finishing with 19 points and three rebounds in his second start of the season. Brad Hambrick finished with 16 points, five rebounds and a team-high four assists while playing all 40 minutes on the night with Esteban Arriola notched a career-high 14 points for the Lions.
Only three other Lions put their name on the score chart as Andrew Davis finished with six points and five boards while Quince Jackson posted three points off the bench. Devondrick Walker hit a pair of free throws while grabbing four boards for A&M-Commerce.
Noticeably absent from the score sheet was Desmond King, who was held scoreless for the first time in his Lion career, while grabbing four rebounds. Mouhamadou N'doye recorded a pair of blocks before fouling out for A&M-Commerce.
The Lions came into the game playing for their postseason lives and looked good early on, racing out to an early 9-4 lead thanks to threes from Whitley and Arriola while Davis added a lay-up.
But West Texas would string together a 16-0 run spanning the next five and a half minutes, claiming a 20-9 lead midway through the opening half. The Buffs extended that lead to 14 at 30-16 with just over four minutes remaining in the half before taking a 38-25 lead into halftime.
West Texas A&M maintained its advantage into the early portion of the second half, pushing its lead back to 14 on three other occasions. A&M-Commerce seemed to find its groove midway through the half, compiling an 11-3 spurt to pull to within six at 49-43 with 8:56 remaining.
But the Buffs used its strategy of winding down the shot clock then grabbing an offensive board to their advantage, slowing down the game down the stretch and keeping the Lions at bay. West Texas A&M would extend its lead back to double digits before holding off one final A&M-Commerce rally to notch the 70-60 decision.
West Texas held the advantage in field goal percentage for the game, shooting 40.4 percent (21-of-52) compared to 32.7 percent (16-of-49) for A&M-Commerce. The Lions held an edge in three-point shooting, hitting 8-of-21 (38.1 percent) shots compared to 7-of-19 (36.8 percent) for West Texas. Free throw shooting was essentially a wash as the Lions shot 71.4 percent (20-of-28) with the Buffs hitting 72.4 percent (21-of-29).
One of the keys of the game for West Texas was a dominating edge in both points in the paint (24 to 12) and bench points (18 to 3) while the Buffs recorded 13 points off 13 Lion turnovers, compared to 8 points for A&M-Commerce off West Texas A&M turnovers.
The Buffs had four players finish in double figures, led by 16 points, eight rebounds and three blocks from Kennon Washington. Donald Sims posted a double-double for West Texas, recording 15 points and 12 rebounds, with David Henderson adding 14 points. Tez Dumars also notched 11 points for West Texas A&M.
One positive note for A&M-Commerce fans is the Lions entered the night trailing both Abilene Christian and Angelo State by one game in the race for eighth-place in the Lone Star Conference standings, and they ended the night in the same position. The Rams fell at Texas A&M-Kingsville 82-71 while the Wildcats dropped a 79-73 decision to Incarnate Word, dropping both of them to 3-12 in LSC play with four games to play.
A&M-Commerce has three big games remaining on the 2011-12 season with the Lions essentially needing to win all three to make the trip to Allen for the Lone Star Conference Championships. They face a big test this Saturday, traveling to Portales, N.M. for a showdown with Eastern New Mexico. The Lions currently hold a nine-game winning streak over the Greyhounds, including an 88-77 victory at the Field House on January 7. Opening tip at Greyhound Arena is set for 5 p.m. CST Saturday afternoon.