By Nicholas Huenefeld/Owens Sports Information
Toledo, Ohio---The No. 8 Express men's basketball team, led by several clutch, individual second half performances, pulled out another come from behind win with a 91-86 decision over Lakeland Community College in the SHAC tonight.
The Express trailed 38-31 at halftime after struggling heavily on offense over the first 20 minutes. They shot 14-for-37 (37.8 percent) from the field, including a 1-for-11 performance (9.1 percent) from 3-point range. They only got to the line three times, while they made two of those. Careless turnovers also hurt them as they had 10 at halftime.
Those turnovers would carry over into the second half as the Express turned the ball over seven times in the half's first six minutes. In doing so, it allowed Lakeland to build a lead of 17 with 14:39 left. A short time later, an Ahmid Williams jumper put Lakeland up 56-40 with 14:21 left.
On the other end, however, Shavon Gayle (Windsor Catholic Central/Windsor, Ontario, Canada) hit 1-for-2 at the foul line to start a 9-0 run that pulled the Express within seven.
Lakeland would bounce back, though, and stretch the lead back to 10 with 10:06 left. John Murry (North Central/Indianapolis, Ind.) followed with two free throws that started a 12-3 run that pulled the Express within one with 7:24 left.
Kenneth Evans hit a lay-up and Rasheed Howard hit two free throws to push Lakeland's lead up to four with 6:12 remaining before the Express took full control of the game.
Bikramjit Gill (Our Ascension of the Lord/Toronto, Ontario, Canada) and Shaakir Lindsey (Teaneck/Teaneck, N.J.) hit back-to-back lay-ups to tie the game at 69-all with 5:31 left. Gill followed with 1-for-2 at the line to give the Express a brief lead.
Howard gave Lakeland the lead back at 71-70 before Andy Bachman (North Side/Fort Wayne, Ind.) drilled a 3-pointer on the ensuing trip down court to give the Express the lead back for good.
Bachman's three started a 7-2 run that put the Express up 77-73 with 2:49 left. Lakeland pulled within two following a pair of free throws from Marcus Fleming, but Bachman drained another three to put the Express up five.
Fleming couldn't be stopped on the next couple possessions as he hit two more free throws and a lay-up to get Lakeland back within two. Another 3-pointer, however, from Murry put the Express up 84-79 with two minutes left.
The Express finished 6-for-6 from the foul line down the stretch, before Howard ended the game with an uncontested dunk for the final margin.
After committing 17 turnovers in the game's first 26 minutes, the Express only turned the ball over six times the final 14 minutes. They also exploded offensively in the second frame - shooting 17-for-24 (70.8 percent) overall and 8-for-11 (72.7 percent) from 3-point range in the final 20 minutes. They also attacked the basket more and finished 18-for-25 from the foul line in the half - after attempting just three in the first half.
In the final 14:21 alone, the Express finished 15-for-21 (71.4 percent) overall from the field and 8-for-10 (80 percent) from the 3-point line.
Murry led the Express in scoring with 28, while adding three rebounds, three steals, one assist and one block. He finished 7-for-15 from the field and 10-for-14 from the foul line.
Bachman, who finished 4-for-9 from the 3-point line, added 17 points, eight rebounds, three blocks, two assists and two steals. His rebound total was second on the team behind Gill, who finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks and one steal.
Lindsey, meanwhile, produced 13 points, 12 assists, three rebounds and two steals. He picked up double digit assists for the third time in four games and produced his second straight double-double in points and assists.
Gill picked up his third straight double-double and fifth in his past six games. He also bumped his season block total up to 49, which is nine short of James Kelly's single season record of 58.
Markese Allen (Crockett/Detroit, Mich.) led the Express bench in scoring with seven, while adding two assists and one steal. He hit a big 3-pointer during the late second half run.
The Express finished 31-for-61 (50.8 percent) overall from the field, 9-for-22 (40.9 percent) from 3-point range and 20-for-28 (71.4 percent) from the foul line. On the other side, Lakeland finished 32-for-74 (43.2 percent) overall, 3-for-11 (27.3 percent) from 3-point range and 19-for-24 (79.2 percent) from the foul line. In the second half alone, Lakeland shot 17-for-18 from the foul line.
Howard tallied a game-high 30 points for Lakeland, while adding nine rebounds, two steals, one block and one assist. Evans (14), Fleming (14) and Williams (12) also scored in double figures. Fleming had a team-high eight assists and a game-high five steals.
With the win, the Express are now 20-4 overall and 7-0 in OCCAC play. Their win tonight sets up a pivotal road matchup with No. 2 Cincinnati State Technical and Community College (22-3, 8-1 OCCAC) on Saturday . The Surge is just one game behind the Express in the conference standings after the Express handed them their only conference loss on Jan. 18.
Lakeland fell to 12-11 overall and 4-4 in OCCAC play with the loss.
With his 28 points tonight, Murry (22.6/game) has overtaken Cincinnati State's Winston Grays (22.2/game) as the conference's leading scorer heading into Saturday's tilt. The Express also have the conference's top rebounder (Gill, 14/game), top assist man (Lindsey, 8.3/game), and top shot blocker (Gill, 3.2/game).
In the season's first matchup between Owens and Lakeland on Jan. 22, the Express came back from down nine with just over three minutes left in the game to pull out the win. The Express also picked up come from behind conference wins over Cincinnati State at home (down seven in the second half) and Columbus State on the road (down 11 in the second half).
Tonight's win also gave the Express 20 or more wins for the third straight season. In head coach Dave Clarke's two plus years, he is 70-22 (.761 winning percentage).
The Express picked up their eighth straight win tonight.