Charlotte, NC -- The Johnson & Wales Wildcat Basketball Team withstood a late comeback from Montreat College to take home the victory against the Cavaliers Thursday night. JWU relied on good ball movement and second-chance points to bring home the win in front of a big home crowd.
Coming off a disappointing outing last Saturday, the Wildcats started the game strong and jumped out to a 10-3 lead by the 14:14 mark of the first half. Montreat switched to a zone defense and forced a lot of quick outside shots from JWU, slowing down the ball movement and offensive momentum from the Wildcats. This allowed Montreat to climb back into the game by cutting the JWU lead to one point on two occasions before taking the lead 20-19 with 4:50 to go in the half. JWU responded and reasserted themselves on offense, highlighted by consecutive offensive rebounds from Thiago Conceicao leading to a Rickey Porter lay-up. JWU went into the locker room with a 32-27 lead.
The Wildcats came into the second half rejuvenated and built up a eleven-point lead at the 15:22 mark off of a three-point play from Nick Crawford. A Crawford assist to Caleb Mercer with 12:11 on the clock pushed the lead again to eleven points. The two teams traded baskets for several possessions before Montreat went on a small run to close the gap to five points at 7:35. A steal and three-point basket from DeQuincey Bennett pushed the lead back to eight points, where it stayed for a few possessions before another Bennett three-pointer put the Wildcats back up by eleven points. The largest lead down the stretch came with 3:50 left in the game when David Bargamento hit a three-point shot to give the Wildcats a twelve-point cushion. Montreat maintained its pressure and composure, though, and began to mount a comeback. In the closing minutes of the game, Montreat outscored the Wildcats 14-3 to cut the lead to one point at 63-62. With one minute to play, Montreat missed the front end of a crucial one-and-one free throw opportunity, and DeQuincey Bennett knocked down two clutch free throws for the Wildcats to go up 65-62. Still a one-possession game, Montreat had a final possession to go for the tie, but a steal by Rickey Porter put the Wildcats back on the line to put the game on ice. After his free throw attempt, Joshua Cohen hustled after his miss to regain possession of the ball. Nick Crawford put the game away for JWU with two more free throws. Montreat got off a final shot, but it fell short as time expired. JWU escaped the game by a score of 67-62.
The Wildcats (3-1) were led by Rickey Porter with 19 points and 7 rebounds. DeQuincey Bennett was also in double figures for the Wildcats with 15 points. JWU is back in action on Saturday in a doubleheader with the women's team. The men play at 2:00 PM, and the women follow at 4:00 PM. It's Bowtie Day at the games to honor President Gallagher for all he has done for athletics at JWU. Wear your best bowtie or get one at the game to participate in the fun and show your gratitude for President Gallagher! He will address the crowd before the start of the second game.