Royals Relinquished, Lions Triumph 102-78 for Second Straight Win
DAYTON, Tenn. – On Thursday night, the Bryan College men’s basketball team continued their winning ways as their 2018-19 season unfolds, following up their season-opening victory earlier in the week with a dominating performance against visiting Johnson University (Tenn.). The Royals, who are a top-ranked NCCAA program, struggled to keep pace with a Lions’ side that knocked down over 60 percent from the floor while controlling the boards 48-29, en route to an overwhelming 102-78 win. Bryan lifted their overall record to 2-0 and dropped Johnson to 0-1.
Efficient shooting and an all-around team effort are what made the difference for the Lions. Bryan created great opportunities on offense early, helping register a blistering 70.8 shooting percentage in the opening half. Hustle by the home team forced tough looks for the Royals, as they connected on just 36.8 percent in the first period. Through the first three minutes, Bryan rallied for an 11-0 run that began and ended with EJ Bush scoring in the paint. In between was Isaiah McClain who successfully drove through the lane with a finish at the rim and also drained a shot from behind the arc. A steal by Keaton Dotson and dish to Austin Douglas with a breakaway layup helped spark the Lions and continue to build the momentum. The Royals were able to battle back, cutting the deficit to four points at 17-13 nearing the 13-minute mark. Bryan went without a double-digit lead again until 8:31 when Clay Hertel found Bush underneath for the easy bucket, providing the Lions with a 32-22 advantage. Johnson chipped away at the difference, slimming the gap to eight at 42-34 with two and a half minutes before the break, but Bryan ended the period on an 8-2 run, creating a 14-point cushion at halftime 50-36. It was Noah Mulaski who packed the final punch of the first half with a corner three-pointer with just four seconds remaining on the clock. In the opening frame, Bryan cashed in 4-of-8 from deep and fought to go to the foul line where they converted on 12-of-24 compared to the mere 4-for-4 produced by Johnson.
While the Royals were hoping to change the tempo in the second half, the Lions wasted no time and started right where they left off. A Johnson player attempted to silence Bryan with a dunk, but hanging on the rim and interfering cost the Royals with a technical, which Dotson capitalized on the free throw. The Lions made a stop, and Douglas used his speed to round the edge and finish below. Capping the 5-0 rally to open up the latter period was another good drive by Douglas, pushing Bryan’s advantage to 55-36 at 18:58. At 13:37, Johnson started an attack that ended at 12:31 with the Royals trailing the Lions by 13 points 65-52. Little did Johnson know that would be the closest they would come to Bryan for the duration of the contest. The Lions responded with a two-pointer from McClain, a floater in the lane from Geevantay Gee, and a trey drilled by Hertel between another pair of baskets from McClain. The 11-0 run only took two minutes for Bryan to complete, which gave them over a 20-point lead that was maintained for the rest of the night. Hertel put on a clinic until the five-minute mark, completing an and-one play and countering any shots made by the Royals with pull-ups from outside. The Lions led 91-63 at 4:55 and never backed down, as they continued to put fresh legs on the court. Bryan was just one point away from the century mark with one and a half minutes left to play at 99-74, and it was big-man Riley Dempsey who took the Lions over the edge with a steal and two-handed dunk. Trey Spencer notched the final point for Bryan at the foul line, helping the Lions seal the 102-78 victory.
Five players for Bryan reached double-digit scoring, but it was Bush who posted a team-best 23 points while chipping in five rebounds, four assists, and a team-high four blocks. Bush was the Appalachian Athletic Conference’s block leader last year, and he helped the Lions outblock Johnson 8-0. Hertel followed with 17 points, eight boards, and four assists. McClain secured a 16-point outing with a pair of rebounds. 11 points and two assists were recorded by Dotson, while Brandon Thomas nearly completed his second straight double-double with 10 points and nine boards. Douglas aided with notable numbers, scoring eight points and yielding four rebounds to go with four assists. Rounding out the rest of the scoring for the Lions was Spencer with five points, the trio of Gee, Mulaski, and Warner with three points apiece, Dempsey with two points, and one point scored by KJ Hawkins.
Bryan will get their first road test this Saturday, Oct. 27 when they travel to Huntsville, Ala. and take on the Ambassadors of Oakwood University at 9pm.