Sports

Choctaws’ foul troubles cause four losses

The Mississippi College men’s basketball team has dropped four straight games. Their record now sits at 7-13 and 5-12 in the American Southwest Conference. With only five games remaining in the season, the Choctaws are now beyond hopes of posting a winning mark.

Misfortune first came for MC on the road, on Jan. 30, when the Choctaws faced Concordia Texas (14-4, 11-4 ASC). The Tornados scored the first 2 points of the game, and by halftime accumulated a 35-46 lead. The Choctaws did not count themselves out, because their last two games had become wins due to late rallies in the second half.

MC came out of the half ready to fight. Emmanuel Ezejiofo created an opportunity with a steal, and pushed the ball ahead to Lakin Ford, who nailed a 3-pointer. Ford soon added a layup, then another 3. Following a Concordia timeout, Willie Williams and Ezejiofo rounded out the 13-0 run by the Choctaws to start the second half, giving them a 48-46 advantage. The teams exchanged leads, battling back and forth until regulation was drawing to a close.

With two ticks left on the clock, MC was ahead 78-80. As Concordia threw up a last-second desperation shot, MC’s Deaundrea Lyons fouled. The Tornadoes found success at the foul-line, and tied the game at 80 points apiece. Time expired.

In overtime, the Tornados built a lead an 8-point lead with 1:46 remaining. This time, it was Jay Case’s turn to go on a run for the Choctaws, as he hit a 3-pointer and followed with a jump shot off the turnover. With 16 seconds remaining, Case hit another shot from beyond the arc, neutralizing the score once again. Ford blocked a shot as the period expired, securing a second overtime.

After a bit of tit-for-tat scoring, the teams were even, once again, at 98 points with 72 seconds left in double overtime. Concordia hit a 3-pointer, and added two free throws to win 103-98.

MC lost the next two games, at Mary-Hardin Baylor (11-8, 9-7 ASC), and against Texas-Dallas (18-2, 16-1 ASC) by a combined 17 points. On Feb. 8, the Choctaws hoped to recover at home in the dome, in an afternoon game against Hardin-Simmons (14-7, 14-4 ASC).

The first half was competitive, but at the break the Cowboys led MC, 31-28. The first lead of the second half for the Choctaws came after nearly 8 minutes had elapsed. Case hit another 3-pointer, his fourth of the day, giving MC a 42-41 lead.

With 50 seconds remaining, Hardin-Simmons had built a 5-point lead, their strongest of the half. That is when Case’s next big shot came, a 3-pointer that slashed the deficit to 2 points with 37 seconds left. With five seconds remaining, Case came up with a steal, and gave MC a chance to take the game. The Cowboys called a time out to regroup, but could not defend against Ford as he slammed home the inbounding pass. The game knotted the game at 60 apiece with four seconds remaining.

That is when history, unfortunately, repeated itself. The Cowboys took the ball down the court for one last chance, and were fouled. Hardin-Simmons only made one free throw, but that was all it would take. Hardin-Simmons won 61-60.

The Choctaws lost the game at the line. In fact, in the four-game skid, MC’s fouling gave their opponents 144 free throws, which were converted into 115 points. Spotting the opponent an average of nearly 29 points per game at the foul-line is nearly impossible to overcome, which is why the Choctaws now sit at ninth place in the ASC.

– Andy O’Brien, Sports Editor

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