Charlotte, NC -- The JWU Men's Basketball Team participated in the JCSU Tip-Off Classic at Johnson C. Smith University on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats battled two CIAA teams, the host JCSU Golden Bulls and the Blue Bears of Livingstone College. Both of these schools are members of the much-revered CIAA conference, a longstanding tradition in basketball in the area. The Wildcats were overmatched in Friday's game against the Golden Bulls, where JCSU dominated inside and showed tremendous roster depth, but Saturday's game saw the Wildcats stand up to Livingstone College and give the Blue Bears all they could handle. Overall, JWU came out of the weekend playing some of their best basketball of the season as they look toward the JWU Cup and more USCAA opponents on their schedule.
On Friday, the Wildcats jumped out to a quick start, opening up a 9-1 lead over the Golden Bulls on three three-point baskets. Stunned, JCSU responded with a run of its own, taking the lead 13-10 at the 13:30 mark of the first half. The momentum clearly changed here, as the Wildcats committed some turnovers and allowed JCSU to go on 8-2 run to push the lead to nine points. Behind the strong outside shooting of DeQuincey Bennett and the inside presence of Rickey Porter, JWU cut the lead to as few as seven points at 27-20, but the Golden Bulls used their size and strength advantages to push the ball inside. JCSU led by eighteen at halftime and came out of the locker room to go on an 18-3 run to open the second half and put the game out of reach. JWU got 18 points and five three-point baskets from DeQuincey Bennett and 13 points from David Bargamento, but the Wildcats fell to JCSU by a score of 95-49.
Saturday's game saw the Wildcats reassert themselves and play with a focus, despite two lopsided losses this week. Although the Livingstone College Blue Bears ran out to a 12-4 lead early in the game, the Wildcats got scoring from Nick Crawford and Caleb Mercer to help cut into that lead, and shooting from David Bargamento and DeQuincey Bennett helped the Wildcats to a two-point lead at halftime at 36-34. Both teams played inspired ball in the second half, with JWU taking a five-point lead at 58-53 before Livingstone went on a 7-0 run to go up by two points. A few lead changes later, the Wildcats found themselves up by one point with six minutes left to play at 65-64, but Livingstone took the lead back at 69-68 with just under four minutes left. With both teams in the bonus, free throws were immensely important down the stretch, and the Wildcats just could not knock them down, shooting 64.3% from the line on the day. Livingstone held on for the win by a score of 82-72. The Wildcats had four scorers in double figures in the game: DeQuincey Bennett had 19 points, Rickey Porter and Caleb Mercer each had 13 points, and Nick Crawford had 10 points.
Despite going 0-3 this week, the Wildcats have improved many elements of their play by facing tough opponents. The Wildcats are currently 4-4 and are making progress in each game. Coach Casciano named senior co-captain DeQuincey Bennett the team MVP of the tournament, and Mark Boone was recognized for having the highest GPA on the team so far. Next up for the Wildcats is a game at North Carolina Central University on December 2 at 7:00 PM. The team will enjoy a much-deserved Thanksgiving and term break before hitting the court again in December to continue making Wildcat fans proud.
Happy Thanksgiving from the JWU Wildcat Athletic Department!