A&M-Commerce roared out to a commanding 20-point halftime lead, then fought off a second half surge from Southern Arkansas to notch a 92-86 victory over the Muleriders in the 2013-14 home opener at the Field House on Wednesday, Nov. 13.
Junior LaDon Carnegie led the way for the Lions, notching 21 points in his home debut, including hitting three of his four three-point attempts, and adding 11 rebounds for his first career double-double. He was complemented on the offensive attack by senior Devondrick Walker's 17 points and six rebounds.
Newcomers De'Andre Carson and Eddie Leal were impressive in their home debuts as well, as each finished with 11 points on the night. Carson was 4-of-9 from the floor with a pair of assists while Leal went 3-of-4 from three-point range, helping break the game open in the first half.
Junior Christian Macauley had a productive evening as well, finishing with eight points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Senior Tyrie Wooten notched nine points and a team-high five assists while senior Kenny Brown added eight points off the bench for the Lions.
Coming off a perfect 2-0 record in Lawton, Oklahoma over the weekend, A&M-Commerce found its scoring touch early in the game. Leading 15-12 with just over six minutes gone, the Lions began to flex their offensive muscles. Over the next 13 minutes, A&M-Commerce outscored Southern Arkansas 34-17, including a 16-4 run over the final five minutes of the half to build the commanding 49-29 halftime lead.
During that first half splurge, the Lions shot a blistering 60.0 percent from the floor, hitting nine of their 17 three-point attempts (52.9%) in the process. On the flip side, A&M-Commerce held Southern Arkansas to just 39.3 percent shooting from the floor as the Lions led an 18-5 edge in points off turnovers.
But Southern Arkansas came out a resurgent team in the second half, led by Alre'k Brown. Brown scored nine-straight points for the Muleriders coming out of intermission and recorded 13 of his 25 points during a 21-8 Southern Arkansas run spanning the first five minutes of the second half that cut the deficit to just seven at 57-50.
A&M-Commerce matched baskets with the Muleriders before Southern Arkansas strung together an 11-5 run to make it a one possession game at 68-65. The Lions would answer with a 6-0 run of their own, pushing the lead back to nine at 74-65, then extended that advantage to 12 at 79-67, culminating an 11-2 surge to swing momentum back in A&M-Commerce's favor.
Southern Arkansas would chip away at the deficit one last time, pulling to within three once again at 84-81 with 2:12 remaining in the game. But A&M-Commerce kept the Mulerider rally at bay, hitting key free throws and coming up with some defensive stops to preserve the 92-86 victory.
With the win, the Lions improve to 3-0 on the season as head coach Sam Walker continues his domination of teams from the Natural State. The Lions improved to 15-2 all-time against the Muleriders under Walker, notching its 15th victory in the last 16 meetings against teams from the state of Arkansas, dating back to the 2008 season.
A&M-Commerce heads back on the road this week, making the trip to Stephenville for the 2013 Tarleton Texan Tipoff Classic. The Lions open up the two-day tournament by facing Bloomfield (N.J.) College at 2 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 15, before taking on St. Edward's on Saturday, Nov. 16, tipping at 2 p.m. as well.