SLUGGISH FIRST HALF PROVES COSTLY IN 86-75 LOSS TO INCARNATE WORD
Incarnate Word 86, A&M-Commerce 75
Location: The Field House • Commerce, Texas
Records: A&M-Commerce (9-4, 2-1 LSC); Incarnate Word (6-5, 2-1 LSC)
Up Next: at Texas A&M-Kingsville • Saturday, Jan. 5 • 3 p.m. • Kingsville, Texas
COMMERCE, Texas – A&M-Commerce came out of the gate sluggish and Incarnate Word make it pay, handing the Lions a 86-75 defeat at the Field House Wednesday night. The loss drops A&M-Commerce to 9-4 on the season and 2-1 in Lone Star Conference play as head coach Sam Walker remains tied with Jim Gudger as the all-time winningest coach in program history with 201 victories.
Playing its first game in nearly three weeks, the Lions struggled to find their groove, hitting just 42.1 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from three-point range, compared to 59.3 percent for Incarnate Word who at one point was shooting 70 percent from the floor through the second half.
Five Lions scored in double figures on the night, led by 16 for Jason Smith to complement his team-high seven rebounds. Preston Whitley added 15 points for A&M-Commerce with Tyrie Wooten finishing with 12 points on the night. Devondrick Walker added 11 points and four rebounds off the bench with Quince Jackson knocking down 10 points on four-of-five shooting.
Incarnate Word did a good job at keying in on two of the Lions biggest threats, holding Andrew Davis, the LSC's leading rebounder, to no boards and no points on the night while Stefon Carson, who was coming off his career-high 26 point performance at Southern Arkansas, was held to just two points with a team-high four assists.
A&M-Commerce appeared out of sync from the get-go as the Lions found itself trailing behind Incarnate Word 8-4 out of the gates, and the Cardinals were just getting going. Incarnate Word outscored A&M-Commerce 29-10 over the next 11 minutes, including a 15-2 spark, building a commanding 37-14 lead with just over five minutes remaining in the opening half.
The Lions were able to match the Cardinals over the final stretch of the opening half, trailing 46-22 at the halftime break. A&M-Commerce shot just 22.2 percent in the first half, compared to 65.5 percent for Incarnate Word who hit 19 of their 29 shots as opposed to 6-of-27 for the Lions.
Incarnate Word kept that intensity going through the first 10 minutes of the second half, maintaining a 20-point buffer on A&M-Commerce and thwarting any Lion rally chances. A&M-Commerce was able to claw its way back into contention late in the second half, pulling to within nine at 78-69 with 2:25 remaining, but as was the case all evening, the Lions couldn't make the shots when it counted as the Cardinals pulled away for the victory.
The loss to Incarnate Word is the third-straight for A&M-Commerce as Walker now sits at 2-7 all-time against the Cardinals, including a 1-2 mark at the Field House. Six players finished in double figures for Incarnate Word, led by 19 points from Kyle Hittle, who posted 16 in the first half, while Dionelle Rucker finished with 17 points for the Cardinals. Denzel Livingston added a double-double for Incarnate Word, notching 11 points with 10 rebounds.
A&M-Commerce now look to puts the tough defeat behind it as it makes the long trek to South Texas for a Saturday matinee against longtime LSC rival Texas A&M-Kingsville. Walker takes his second crack at win 202, but will face a touch challenge in doing so as he has won just once in nine trips to Kingsville. Opening tip against the Javelinas is scheduled for 3 p.m. with coverage of the game available at LionAthletics.com.