HELENA, Mont. – After seeing four very close road league games slip through its fingers this season, the Lewis-Clark State College men’s basketball team finally got to enjoy a happy ending on Saturday night against Carroll College. In a battle for second place in the Frontier Conference, the No. 21 Warriors held off the Saints 62-59.
The Warriors beat Carroll by 15 points at home and were on pace to win by even more than that on the road, leading by 18 with 10 minutes to go. Nevertheless, as has been the case for Warrior road games this year, the finish ended up being another nail-biter.
“I feel very lucky to be coming out of that gym with a win,” LCSC head coach Brandon Rinta said. “Carroll is a great team. I give them a lot of credit for the heart that they showed. But thankfully our guys were able to make the plays that we needed to in crunch time.”
Thanks to a 20-2 run, the Saints erased LC’s lead and tied it at 47-47 with four minutes left in regulation. Warrior senior Gavin Kauffman finally ended the run with a traditional three-point play, and a couple plays later Trea Thomas found a wide-open Brady Bagby in the corner and he hit a three to put the Warriors up 54-51.
But the Saints certainly didn’t go away as they used back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the lead to one, 58-57, with 30 seconds on the clock. And if the Warriors hadn’t made their last four three throws the outcome may have been very different.
“Gavin made a big play to stop the bleeding on a drive to the basket when things were really going their way,” said Rinta, “and then Brady came up with a big three and Jamaal (Thomas) and Trea knocked down some big free throws.”
The win gives LCSC, which is 21-7 overall and 7-5 in conference play, sole possession of second place and drops Carroll (18-9, 7-6) to third. Next week the Warriors wrap up the regular season by hosting two games including one pivotal matchup with first-place and No. 12-ranked Montana Western.
Six of the Warriors losses have come on the road this season, including all five of the team’s league defeats.
“It’s always tough on the road,” Rinta said. “This is what it comes down to every single time, and we just have to do a better job of making the winning plays that we need like we did tonight."
If it weren’t for LCSC’s defense early on, the chance to make such plays at the end would not have even been possible. The Warriors held Carroll to just 15 points in the first half.
“For the first 30 minutes, that was the best defense that this team has played,” said Rinta. “That first half was by far the best defense we’ve played.”
LCSC’s defense stood out in the final minutes as well, coming up with a couple of much needed stops. Kauffman accounted for one of those as he poked a ball loose with about two minutes left, dove for it on the floor, and quickly called a timeout.
Overall, the Warriors outshot Carroll 43 percent to 36 percent and had a 43-26 advantage in rebounds. They finished with 11 steals, though they could have done a better job protecting the basketball themselves.
“I was impressed with our guys’ defensive efforts for the first 30 minutes, but we negated it a little bit with 26 turnovers,” Rinta said. “And that’s why I feel lucky that we won because of the 26 turnovers.”
Erick Diouf, who was 6-for-6 from the field, and Kaufman led all Warriors with 13 points apiece, while Bagby had 12. Diouf also gathered a game-high 12 rebounds. Jacob Wiley didn’t score but did collect eight boards and three steals.
Oliver Carr led Carroll with 20 ponts. Ryan Imhoff had 14 points and seven boards and Zach Taylor totaled 11 points.
Sports Information Director &
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Lewis-Clark State College
Lewiston, Idaho 83501
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