The Texas A&M University-Commerce men’s basketball team defeated Fort Lewis College 78-62 in the first round of the NCAA Division II South Central Regional tournament on Saturday. The Lions built a lead early in the game and did not relent for the rest of the contest.

The win brings the Lions to 22-8 on the season and they continue on to the second round of the regional tournament. The Skyhawks fall to 24-7 on the year and they are eliminated from tournament play.

The Lions return to action tomorrow night to face regional host and first-seed West Texas A&M. The game will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the First United Bank Center in Canyon.

INSIDE THE BOX SCORE
– The Lions defense caused 20 Fort Lewis turnovers and converted them into 33 points. The Lions had just eight turnovers in the game.
– Willie Rooks co-led the Lions with 15 points and he added a team-high five assists without a turnover.
– Joseph Williams-Powell also had 15 points, shooting 7-of-9 from the field.
– Trey Conrod had 14 points and led the team with four steals.
– Dorian Armstrong scored 10 points. Daquane Willford had five points and four steals.
– It is the Lions’ first NCAA playoff win since the 2004-05 season.

HOW IT HAPPENED
The Skyhawks started the game hot, hitting four early shots, including two from beyond the arc. The Lions fell behind by seven but started to find their rhythm. Horne hit an early three and Reid and Conrod both hit jumpers inside the paint to get the scoring started. A technical foul assessed to Fort Lewis helped the Lions get back in the game as they hit both free throws to tie the game at 10 after five minutes of action.

The Lions hit back-to-back threes to take their first lead of the game at the 13-minute mark of the half. Rooks’ three was followed by a triple from Williams-Powell. Budimir also hit a three as the Lions pushed their lead to five. Midway through the half, the Lions led by three.

Conrod hit consecutive buckets, including another three to push the Lion lead back up. The Skyhawks also continued to shoot well from the field, not letting the Lions pull away.

Conrod continued to play tough on both ends. He hit a shot in the paint on one end and then drew a charge on the other end. Rooks hit a jumper to bring the Lion lead to nine points with six minutes to play. After FLC cut the Lion lead back to six points Rooks hit a three and he was followed by Armstrong for the triple. The Lions took their largest lead of the half, a 38-26 lead with five minutes left.

FLC cut the Lion lead back down to eight before Williams-Powell hit two buckets in a row, including a rebound slam dunk. The Lions went scoreless for the final 2:42 of the half and the Skyhawks scored the final five points of the half. A&M-Commerce took a 42-35 lead into halftime.

Rooks led the Lions with 10 points, hitting two threes. Conrod had nine points, hitting four of six from the field. Williams-Powell also had nine points. The Lions hit seven threes in the first half and had just two turnovers. The Lions turned eight FLC turnovers into 14 points.

Both teams shot well in the first half. The Skyhawks shot 48 percent while the Lions shot 46 percent. FLC got to the free throw line 12 times in the first half while the Lions shot six free throws.

Conrod hit a three coming out of the half and also had a step back jumper to again bring the Lion lead back up to double digits. Conrod then had a steal and Rooks was able to get a layup on the other end to bring the Lion lead to 13 points just three minutes into the second half.

The Lions continued to execute well on offense, making the extra pass to find the open guy. Armstrong found space for a three and Willford also hit a three. Two free throws from Aaron Horne gave the Lions a 20-point lead with 10 minutes left in the game.

The Lions did not let off the pressure for the remainder of the game and did not allow Fort Lewis any opportunity to climb back into the game. The Lions continued to play sound basketball and to limit turnovers and won the game by 16.

Written by: Marcus Jensen

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