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Men's basketball pulls away from GSW behind Alston's second half outburst

Men's basketball pulls away from GSW behind Alston's second half outburst

GREENWOOD – The Lander men's basketball team has its first winning streak of the season after beating Georgia Southwestern 97-80 in Peach Belt Conference action Saturday afternoon at Horne Arena.

The Bearcats, coming off a 128-121 win over Young Harris on Wednesday in the highest-scoring game in PBC history, fell just shy of 100 points Saturday. They improved to 4-8 overall, 3-3 in the Peach Belt.

The Hurricanes fell to 2-8, 0-4.

"I thought our guys were kind of able to regroup in the second half and did a really good job of playing inside-out," said assistant coach Ryan Hilburn. "We hit them inside in the first half and when they started trapping that early in the second half, we were able to throw it outside and hit some shots." 

Elijah Alston hit five three-pointers in the second half as the Bearcats rallied from a one-point halftime deficit. The Bearcats shot 74.1 percent from the floor in the second half, making 20 of their 27 shot attempts. 

Lander's Marquel Wiggins led all scorers with 19 points on eight of 13 shooting from the floor. He was averaging 18.9 points per game coming into Saturday's action.

DeShundre Rucker had a big first half and finished with 18 points for Lander on seven of 10 shooting.

Alston added 17 points, all in the second half, and a game-high nine rebounds. He was six for eight from the floor and made all five of his attempts from behind the arc in the second half.

Rahu Purdie scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half for the Bearcats while adding a game-high seven assists. Sidney Robinson contributed 10 points and four assists. Jordan Dingle scored seven points while Justin Holliday added six points and three blocked shots.

Jalen Morgan led the Hurricanes with 17 points, Kwei Lartey scored 13, and Grant Howard and Andre Statam added 11 apiece.

Rucker scored 11 early points while Holliday converted an acrobatic basket into a three-point play and added a three-pointer as Lander led 26-20 at the midway point of the first half.

But the Hurricanes scored seven unanswered points to gain a 27-26 advantage, and there were eight lead changes the rest of the half. A Devon Higgs layup at the buzzer gave Georgia Southwestern a 45-44 halftime lead.

There were five more lead changes and one tie in the first four minutes of the second half, with Alston hitting his third three-pointer of the half to hand the Bearcats a 57-54 lead with 16:11 left.

Alston's fourth trey of the half gave Lander a 65-61 advantage with 12:33 to go. The Hurricanes scored six unanswered to tie the game at 67. But Morris Robinson Jr. gave the Bearcats the lead for good when he drove into the paint and converted a layup to put Lander ahead 69-67 with 10:22 to go.

The Bearcats were leading 73-70 when they went on a key 6-0 run. Purdie made two free throws and then split a double team for a layup, and Sidney Robinson raced up the floor for a layup to make it 79-70 with 6:16 left.

Purdie's three from the right side gave Lander an 85-73 cushion with 4:35 remaining.

Rucker's dunk off a no-look pass from Sidney Robinson upped the Bearcat lead to 89-76 with 3:32 left, and Purdie's three-point play on Lander's next possession increased the advantage to 16 points at the three-minute mark.

Alston hit a three from the top of the key, his fifth of the second half, to make it 97-80 with one minute left.