Relentless defensive pressure in the first half carried the Northeastern A&M Golden Norsemen to a 79-73 victory over the Arkansas-Fort Smith Lions Saturday afternoon in the NEO Fieldhouse.
“We finally put two good halves together defensively,” Golden Norse head coach Dustin Grover said. “We used our full-court pressure to build a lead and then used our depth to wear them down in the second half.”
With the win, the Golden Norse are 1-1 in the Bi-State East and 14-9 on the season. The loss dropped the Lions to 0-2 in the East and 16-7 overall.
The Norsemen travel to Wilburton on Monday for an 8 p.m. conference showdown with the Eastern State College Mountaineers.
Four straight points by Phillipe Martin along with a 3-point field goal by Jamere King and a layup by Tony Ross, provided the Norsemen with a 9-7 lead with 14:42 left in the first half.
A 3-pointer by Martin and a basket and free throw by Raphael Brown, along with layups by Chaz Davis and King, increased NEO’s lead to 19-9 with 12:03 until halftime.
Over the next eight minutes, Martin scored four points, along with field goals by Andre Coimbra, Carlos Dos Santos, Chase Elliott and Jamell Cormier, to give the Golden Norse a 31-24 cushion.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Cormier and a layup by Scott Forrest enabled the Golden Norsemen to maintain a 39-28 cushion at halftime.
During the first 10 minutes of the second half, the Lions took advantage of some NEO defensive lapses to forge a 50-50 tie. Eight points by Tyrone Hanson and four points each by Jeniro Bush, Mark Rutledge and LaDustin Williams fueled the Lions comeback.
“As well as we shot the ball in the first half (16 of 30), we couldn’t buy a basket in the second half (7 of 26),” Grover said. “But, we came up with the shots when it really mattered.”
Two free throws each by Brown, Martin and Dos Santos, along with a layup by Tony Ross, gave NEO a 58-54 lead with 5:52 showing on the clock.
Six points by Martin, along with baskets by Chase Elliot and Brown and solo free throws by Ross and Cormier, propelled NEO to a 71-60 lead with 1:22 left in the game.
Martin led all scorers with 27 points along with 11 by Cormier.
Williams paced the Lions with 21 points.