By CALEB SLINKARD
Texas A&M University-Commerce (3-0) played an aggressive style of defense and hit 12 3-pointers to defeat Southern Arkansas (1-1) 92-86 in the Lions’ home basketball opener.
The Lions played strong defense early and were feast-or-famine on offense, scoring their first three buckets off of treys and jumping to an early 11-6 lead. Senior guard Kameron Price pushed the lead to 20-12 with a one-handed runner in the paint.
Freshman guard De’Andre Carson blew past his defender for the finger roll to give the Lions their first double digit lead of the night at 24-14. Junior center Christian Macauley gave the Lions a boost defensively, blocking two straight Mulerider shots.
Junior guard Quintin Lee cut the Lion lead to single digits, but senior guard Devondrick Walker put A&M-Commerce right back up with a three, 31-19. Walker hit a second one a minute later to give A&M-Commerce the 36-24 advantage. An alley-oop slammed home by Macauley continued the Lions’ momentum. A&M-Commerce increased its lead to 18 when Price finished a fast break with a layup.
Junior guard Eddie Leal hit a 3-pointer on a catch-and-shoot to put A&M-Commerce up 49-28 with less than a minute left in the first half.
The Muleriders came out on a 10-3 tear in the second half, punctuated by junior forward Alre’k Brown’s dunk. Junior guard Nemo Sanchez cut the Lions’ lead to eight with a corner trey, but junior guard LaDon Carnegie answered right back with a three of his own.
Southern Arkansas cut the lead to six with 11:30 left in the second half, thanks to five Lion turnovers. Sanchez continued the Mulriders’ run with an elbow 3-pointer, drawing his team to within three.
Then A&M-Commerce began to regroup. Carnegie scored on a strong post move and Carson hit a deep three to put the Lions up 77-67.
But Southern Arkansas was not going away without a fight. A slash and scoop by Brown brought the Riders to within three at 84-81. Carnegie scored four straight for A&M-Commerce to give the Lions some breathing room, and they rode that advantage to the victory.
Carnegie led the Lions with 21 points and contributed 11 rebounds against seven turnovers. Walker had 17 points and six boards, while Macauley ended with eight points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
Brown paced with the Muleriders with 26 points, while Jeffrey Walker had 13 points and nine boards.
The Lions shot 45.7 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from beyond the arc. They were outscored 42-30 in the paint but had a 27-18 advantage off of turnovers.
The Lions will travel to Stephenville for the Tarleton State Texan Tip-Off Classic. Their first game is against Bloomfield College (N.J.) at 2 p.m. on Friday.