Concord, NC – Newsom Gymnasium has been the site of two excruciating losses for the Johnson & Wales Wildcats (1-3). Tuesday night they were out to change that trend against USCAA foe Barber-Scotia College, and did so in rather spectacular fashion.
The inside-out duo of Robbie Sterling and Jay Keller got the JWU off to a fast start. They combined to score the first twelve Wildcat points, giving the visitors an early 12-8 lead. Sterling picked up his second foul at the 12:51 mark and was forced to the bench for the remainder of the first half. His missing presence inside, combined with Barber-Scotia's full court pressure allowed the Sabers to catch and eventually take the lead through the middle part of the first stanza. The Wildcats, trailing by five at 23-18, were able to sandwich two Michael Daniel free throws around a Kindrick Anderson 3 pointer to tie the game. Anderson made a nifty spinning layup on the next possession that capped the 7-0 JWU run and put them back in front at the 4:02 mark. Baskets from Omar Nuboer and Adarius Davis combined with a conventional three point play from Daniel, and a deep three from Anderson just before the horn allowed the Wildcats to take an eight point lead, 37-29 into the break.
For as well as the first half ended for JWU, the second half could not have started much worse. The Wildcats committed turnovers on 8 of their first 9 second half possessions. The Sabers took advantage, reeling off a 15-0 run to grab a 7 point lead of their own, 44-37 with 15:40 left in the second period. Seven consecutive Michael Daniel points pulled JWU to within two at 46-44, but Barber-Scotia was able to answer with a 3 on the other end to extend the lead back to five. Kindrick Anderson then hit two 3 pointers and converted a steal into an easy layup to get the Wildcats back within a bucket, 54-52. Nuboer grabbed a rebound on the next Saber possession and found Keller streaking down court for a fast break layup and foul. When Keller scored again on the next possession, JWU found itself up 3, 57-54 with nine minutes to play. The teams would trade baskets for the next few minutes. When Nick Crawford found Sterling alone under the basket for an easy deuce, JWU went up by four at 67-63, and seemed poised to put the game away with 4:40 left. It was not to be however, as the offense stalled down the stretch. The Wildcats were only able to muster two free throws in the next four minutes, while Barber-Scotia was able to pull ahead by 2, 72-70 with 29.7 seconds left. Jay Keller was able to draw a foul and knock down the tying free throws on JWU's final possession. A last second Saber shot fell short, forcing overtime.
The Wildcats scored 5 of the first 7 points of the extra session to take a 3 point lead with 2:00 to play. They were unable to convert several free throw attempts that would have extended their lead. Barber-Scotia took advantage, scoring four straight points to grab a 78-77 lead with 1:07 left in overtime. Nigel Massey hit a free throw to knot the score, and JWU dug in defensively, forcing a missed Saber shot. The Wildcats got the ball back with 8.8 seconds left. Anderson dribbled to the left wing as the clock wound down, forcing the Saber defense to collapse on him. He found Massey wide open in the right corner, and his high arcing three found nothing but net as the clock expired, giving the Wildcats a thrilling 81-78 overtime win.
Anderson led all scorers with 20 points. Jay Keller added 16, as did Michael Daniel to go with 9 rebounds. Robbie Sterling had a great all-around game with 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks. This marked the first Wildcat win over their closest USCAA foe in five tries. JWU is off until Monday, Nov. 12 when they travel to Durham to take on N.C. Central in a game slated to start at 7pm.