CALDWELL, Idaho – Down 38-30 at halftime, the Lewis-Clark State College men’s basketball found an answer for the College of Idaho at the Duane Wolfe Memorial Golden Rule Shootout on Friday night. The answer came in the form of 7-foot center James Craft who was next to unstoppable in the second half and who led the Warriors to a wild 76-69 win.
Craft got the comeback started by rattling off six unanswered points to start the second half. He first came away with a steal on the opening possession and made his way down court for a layup. Two possessions later Daniel Williams found him open and he nailed a jump shot. Then, after a failed Coyote 3-point attempt, Craft scored two more points on a drive in the paint.
“This was a great win for us,” said LCSC assistant coach Tim Collins. “To beat a quality opponent like that on the road was great.”
The win improves LCSC to 5-1, while College of Idaho, ranked No. 8 in the NAIA Division II preseason poll, drops to 1-1.
The second half didn’t continue as smooth as Craft made it look in the early minutes. The Coyotes climbed back to a 44-38 lead with 15:39 left on the clock and from there the dogfight continued with the score ending up at 58-57 in LCSC’s favor with 6:12 left in regulation. From here, Craft again heated up to score six unanswered points and give the Warriors 64-57 edge with 3:31 remaining.
Eventually the Coyotes were forced to play the foul game to manage the clock, but the Warriors capitalized on this by nailing their free throws including an 11-for-12 mark during a stretch in the final minutes.
Craft finished the night with a career-high 24 points, including 18 points in the second half and a 6-for-6 night at the foul line.
“James has good range out to 18 feet and he’s shooting the ball with confidence,” said Collins. “The big guy went 9-for-14 from the floor and made some real key shots for us.”
Besides Craft, Collins also said that seniors Williams and Tanner McIntosh stepped up for the team. Williams finished with 18 points, five assists and three rebounds, while McIntosh added 12 points, three rebounds, and two assists.
The Warriors ended up outshooting the Coyotes 50 percent (28-of-56) to 44 percent (22-of-50), but the first half was an entirely different story.
“They came out and hit fire and hit a barrage of threes in the first half,” Collins said. “But we knew it wasn’t the 3-point shot that would beat us and that we just needed to bear down and play good defense.”
Led by the strokes of Matt Ballenger and Steve Peres, College of Idaho hit five 3-pointers in the first eight minutes to build a 25-9 lead. Ballenger led the team with 18 points and seven rebounds, and Peres had 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting from behind the arc. Kelvin Potts also added 16 points.
Besides the hot shooting of the Coyotes, LCSC was also plagued by foul trouble in the first half, but the Warriors answered in the second half with good shooting of their own and good ball control. LCSC finished with 10 turnovers and only a three of them came in the second half.
The Warriors continue their tournament play on Saturday with a 5 p.m. match against Northwest University.