TC head coach Matt Cross said the win wasn’t pretty but presented his team with an opportunity to get better, especially in the midst of a month with four more critical conference games. The team defeated conference opponent Dillard in a blowout Saturday, 123-76.
“We had a big win on Saturday and this time of year when you get a non-conference game in the midst of conference season, it’s hard to get up for it especially with a team you already beat on the road,” Cross said. “We’ve got to get better. We’ve got to get this game out of our minds and get ready for the conference game on Saturday. We’ve got a whole lot of things to work on.”
The seventh-ranked Tornadoes scored their first basket off a turnover with a transition layup by Shondel Stewart. He scored two more transition layups off turnovers and Ryan Layssand knocked down a 3-pointer to give TC an early 11-3 lead.
Pensacola Christian responded with a 17-8 run, using long-distance shooting to gain their first lead of the game. Sy Starks started the run with a 3-pointer, Dylan Crane knocked down a pair of 3-pointers, and Xavier Skinner capped the drive with a basket in the post to give Pensacola Christian a 20-19 lead.
TC responded with a 7-0 run with Jamarqus Jones knocking down a back-to-back pair of free throws to give TC a 26-20 lead.
Pensacola was able to come back to tie the score at 27-27 after Mike Goetsch hit two free throws, but again TC responded to regain the lead. This time they went on an 11-0 run that was capped by Layssand’s layup to give TC a 38-27 lead.
Joshua Christian hit a 3-pointer and later converted a 3-point play to cut the lead to 38-33.
Elijah Jones answered with a 3-pointer to make the score 41-33 at the half.
In the second half, Pensacola Christian managed to rally time and time again to keep the score close until the closing seconds. Still, they had more difficulty hitting outside shots in the second half. The TC defense was also able to created more turnovers in the second half (11) compared to the first half (7).
“We just switched it,” Cross explained of his defense. “We already had planned that. There were three defenses we were going to run in the first half to work on and there was a different defense we were going to run the second half to work on. That was it; we just switched up defense.”
After TC built a 51-44 lead, Pensacola Christian cut the lead to 51-48 with two straight scoring opportunities, first by free throws and then with an off-the-glass shot.
Charles Winborne hit a 3-point to give TC a 57-50 lead, but Goetsch hit a basket in the post to cut the lead to 57-52.
TC scored the next six points to build a double-digit lead, enough to gain control of the game. Roman Vaughn hit a shot driving inside the lane and an ensuing free throw and then Jones knocked down another 3-pointer to give TC a 63-53 lead.
Christian was able to hit a 3-pointer to trim the TC lead to 70-65, but that was the closest margin for Pensacola Christian.
Late turnovers proved costly for Pensacola Christian. Skinner lost the ball out of bounds with 33.4 seconds left and PC trailing 82-74. TC was able to get one of two free throws out the turnover. Goetsch wasn’t able to handle a pass and Jamarqus Jones sank both free throws to seal the game for TC with just 16.2 seconds remaining.
“I think Jacobey Ross came in for us and created a lot of energy for us—going on the floor for a loose ball, got a deflection and just turned defense into easy offense and we got some easy baskets down the stretch,” Cross said. “They shot lights out; they’re a good shooting team. This will be a good game for us to go back and look at the film and learn from it.”
With the win, TC moves to 15-2 overall and remain 1-0 in conference play. They host Tougaloo College Saturday with tipoff slated for 5 p.m.