By CALEB SLINKARD
Texas A&M University-Commerce men’s basketball coach Sam Walker was denied his record-breaking 202nd win Wednesday night as the Cardinals of Incarnate Word capitalized on a myriad of Lion turnovers en route to an 86-75 victory.
Walker remains tied with the late Jim Gudger for most career wins at A&M-Commerce. Walker’s career record is now 201-152.
The Cardinals (6-5, 2-1 LSC) raced to an early 17-6 lead before Jason Smith hit a trey to bring the Lions (9-4, 2-1 LSC) back within 10. The Lions struggled to finish baskets around the rim and, when they made it to the free throw line, they could not convert at a high percentage. A litany of offensive fouls kept them from capitalizing on rather sloppy ball movement by the Cardinals.
With six minutes remaining, Kyle Hittle, who led Incarnate Word with 16 points in the first half, converted a breakaway layup to take a 34-14 lead. Andre Corwley hit his second 3-pointer of the half to give the Cardinals a 37-14 advantage. The Lions proceeded to trade buckets until the end of the first, and the teams went into the locker room with Incarnate Word up 46-22.
A&M-Commerce shot an appalling 22.2 percent, and missed all five of their 3-point attempts in the first half. The Cardinals also outran the Lions, recording nine fast break points and eight points off of turnovers.
The Lions got off to a quick 8-4 start in the second half, but the Cardinals quickly regained their first half form, converting fast break chances and maintaining a healthy 20-point advantage. A Quince Jackson three cut the Cardinals’ lead to 15 with nine minutes left, and Donavon Gage completed a fast break with a dunk that brought the Lions fans to their feet.
A&M-Commerce’s full court press confused the Cardinals, who committed several costly turnovers that allowed the Lions to climb back into the game and ignited a home crowd.
Led by Smith, A&M-Commerce continued to stay within 10 points of Incarnate Word. The Lions brought the game to within in nine with two minutes remaining, but Preston Whitley rimmed out a 3-pointer and Tyrie Wooten was called for a defensive foul as the Cardinals held on for their second Lone Star Conference victory.
Hittle led the six Cardinals players who recorded double-digits with 19 points. Smith led the Lions with 16 points and seven rebounds. Whitley added 15, and Devondrick Walker provided 11 points and four rebounds off of the bench.
The Lions travel to Kingsville on Saturday to take on Texas A&M University-Kingsville.