Men's basketball falls to Armstrong Atlantic, 84-75

Corey Wright

GREENWOOD – Chris Vanlandingham scored 27 points and Armstrong Atlantic State made nine 3-pointers in the first half, handing the Lander Bearcats their first home loss of the season 84-75 Wednesday night in a Peach Belt Conference game at Horne Arena.

The Pirates evened their records at 10-10 overall and 6-6 in the Peach Belt.

The Bearcats fell to 12-7 overall and 5-6 in the PBC. Lander entered Wednesday's game with a 10-0 record at home.

Vanlandingham made 11 of 19 shots from the floor and scored 17 points in the second half to pace Armstrong.

Keyshore Williams added a double-double with 18 points and a game-high 11 rebounds for the Pirates. DeVon Jones added 10 points and seven boards, and Mychal Horn led Armstrong with nine assists.

Dwight Tolbert was Lander's leading scorer with 21 points and Corey Wright added 15 points. But the two were a combined 13 of 36 from the floor.

Jermel Kennedy added 13 points and led the Bearcats with nine rebounds, Darion Canty had 10 points and seven boards, and Wright paced Lander with six assists.

Armstrong made 34 of 70 shots from the floor (49 percent), seven of 12 free throws (58 percent) and nine of 26 from behind the arc (35 percent).

The Bearcats hit 29 of 72 shots (40 percent), 10 of 15 free throws (67 percent), and struggled from 3-point range making only seven of 25 (28 percent).

The Pirates had a 43-40 edge on the boards.

Wright's driving layup and Tolbert's 3 staked Lander to a 9-4 lead in the game's first three minutes.

But the Pirates caught up on the strength of their 3-point shooting, pulling within 9-7 on a trey by Williams, closing within 11-10 on Vanlandingham's 3, and tying the game at 13 on Grant Domsic's 3.

After Lander took a 16-13 lead by making three of four free throws, Armstrong State tied it on another Williams 3, and took leads of 19-16 and 22-16 when Domsic hit two more from behind the arc. That would be the beginning of a 26-5 run and the Pirates would never trail again despite the game getting close again later.

After scoring their previous 18 points all on 3s, the Pirates finally scored inside on Arc Miller's jump shot to make it 24-16 at the 11-minute mark.

The Bearcats ended Armstrong's 11-0 run when Kennedy converted a three-point play.

But Williams hit his third 3 and Miller made a layup, giving the Pirates the game's first double-digit lead at 29-19 at the 8:33 mark.

Tolbert interrupted Armstrong's run with a 3-pointer from the left wing, but Vanlandingham scored in the paint and made another 3, J.C. Winn scored inside, and after Kennedy stole the ball and missed a dunk, Austin Edens raced to the other end and made the Pirates' ninth 3 of the night to make it 39-21 with 5:32 to go.

But Armstrong cooled off dramatically, not scoring again the rest of the half as the Pirates were 0-for-8 from the floor and committed five turnovers during 11 scoreless trips. They would also not make another 3-pointer the rest of the game.

The Bearcats took full advantage, ending the half on a 13-0 run. Cody Waterworth passed inside to Darius Carrier for a dunk to start the run, Wright made a free throw, David Pruett and Wright hit 3s, Kennedy scored inside, and Waterworth made a short jumper in the lane to pull Lander within 39-34 with eight seconds left.

It was 39-34 at halftime.

After Vanlandingham made two free throws to open the second half, the Bearcats pulled within a possession, 41-38, on Kennedy's basket and Tolbert's two free throws.

Vanlandingham ended Armstrong's streak of 10 consecutive missed field goals by scoring in the paint at the 18:14 mark, the team's first made basket in more than seven minutes of play.

Two minutes later, Williams scored in the paint to give the Pirates a 48-40 lead.

Wright made a 3-pointer and lobbed a high pass inside to Kennedy for a layup as Lander was back within a possession at 48-45 at the 15:53 mark.

But the Bearcats still couldn't catch up and Vanlandingham's basket off a long pass from Williams increased Armstrong's lead back to 56-49 with 13:50 left. Tolbert hit a 3-pointer, but Williams answered with a three-point play and the Pirates still had a seven-point lead at 59-52.

Armstrong had its biggest lead of the second half, 63-54, at the 11-minute mark when Horn's steal led to a layup by Jones.

The teams traded the next four baskets before Lander got a spark with Tolbert's 3-pointer, Canty's blocked shot, and Dennis Rumph's dunk off a pass from Pruett to close within 69-63 with 7:38 left.

But the Bearcats missed their next five shots, including three during one particularly hard-fought possession, and Armstrong took advantage with a pair of Vanlandingham jumpers to lead 73-63 at the 5:29 mark.

After the teams traded baskets, the Pirates ran the 35-second shot clock down and Vanlandingham hit a long jumper for their largest lead of the second half at 77-65 with 3:40 to go.

Lander kept a possession alive with a pair of offense rebounds leading to Tolbert's 3 from the right corner to close the deficit to nine, 77-68, with 2:30 left. But Armstrong again used the clock wisely, running 30 seconds off the clock before Jones made a short jumper to push the lead back to 11.

The Pirates added free throws down the stretch to clinch the win.