Bears win first Southland game 62-59

The Bears basketball team got its first Southland victory Jan. 26 when they defeated the Southeastern Louisiana Lions 62-59.
The Bears clenched the victory in the Farris Center in the final two minutes of the game when senior forward Tadre Sheppard sank two foul shots to give the Bears back the lead and then hit two more in the final seconds to seal the victory.
Coach Corliss Williamson said he was proud of his team for not giving in at the end of the game and is glad to finally have a Southland Conference win.
“Our guys could have easily packed it in with all the tough games we have lost this year,” he said. “They have been coming to practice every day, eager to work, and it is like I have been telling them ‘if we stay relentless and pursue this direction we would eventually win that game and hopefully start a trend.”
The Bears record after the game stood at 1-5 in the Southland Conference with their overall record at 5-14, but with a loss to the McNeese State Cowboys last Saturday the Bears current record is now 1-6 in the Southland.
After holding the lead for the majority of the game, the Lions broke free of the Bears at the 8:35 mark in the second half when they took a 52-50 lead with a layup from junior guard DeShawn Patterson. The Bears recovered from the lead change four minutes later and took back control with a jump shot from sophomore forward Terry Tidwell to make the score 56-55. The Bears tried to widen the gap in the remaining two minutes when senior guard Imad Qahwash broke through the Lions defense and rolled in a layup to give the Bears a three point lead, but the Lions answered right back as Patterson sank a jump shot to bring them within one with a score of 58-57.
The Lions took their last lead of the game when senior guard Rodney Jones put in a layup to make the score 59-58 with only 1:50 left in the game, however, Sheppard sealed the victory for the Bears with his free throws. Qahwash said the last two minutes of the game were intense for the entire team.
“Coach [Williamson] wanted our undivided attention and we were just super focused,” he said. “It was really intense; there is no other word for it.”
Qahwash said it feels great to finally get a Southland Conference win and to hopefully keep this momentum building for the remainder of the season.
“It feels great to finally have that monkey off of our back,” he said. “To get a good win against a good team on our court in front of our fans, who were a lot of help tonight, it just felt good.”
The Bears were 14-16 in free throws with Sheppard hitting 4-4, Tidwell shooting 2-2 senior guard Mike Pouncy hitting 5-6 and freshman guard Ryan Williams making 3-4. Williamson said he was most proud of his team for its free throw shooting against the Lions.
During the first half, the Bears had a 16 point lead over the Lions that they started whittling away at as halftime neared and then broke through and took the lead during the second half. Williamson said losing that big lead was tough for the Bears but said he was confident they would play tough and get the victory.
“I guess it was us just being us you know?” he said. “We’ve had big leads before and squandered them away. Whether it’s breaking down on defense or it’s getting away from what we were doing on offense that gave us the lead to begin with. Not to take anything away from [the Lions]because they recognized we were breaking down and they took advantage of that. Fortunately, we were able to settle ourselves down and make a few shots.”
The Bears did come out shooting during the first half. They quickly exerted themselves over the Lions and built momentum to give them a lead they continually added to throughout the first half. Senior center Carlos Dos Santos was 3-3 from the field to get the Bears going in the first period. Pouncy and Qahwash both contributed to the score by going 4-6 and 2-6 respectively.
During the game, and primarily in the first half, the Bears had 21 turnovers against the Lions who only allowed 11. Williamson said he was speechless to see that statistic and said he and the team have been constantly talking to try and correct this problem.
“We were just throwing the ball to Casper the friendly ghost, but of course he isn’t on our team,” he said. “We had a bunch of unforced turnovers and that is something we cannot do.”
The Bears’ next game is tonight in Natchitoches, La. where they face the Northwestern State Demons at 7.

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