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Lincoln men withstand high-scoring Gorillas for 96-85 win

Lincoln men withstand high-scoring Gorillas for 96-85 win

January 4th, 2019 by Jason Strickland in College Sports

The Lincoln University Blue Tigers warm up in Jason Gymnasium Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, prior to their basketball contest against Pittsburg State. LU won by a score of 96-85.

Photo by Jason Strickland /News Tribune.

It wasn't the type of game the Lincoln Blue Tigers want to play too often, but it worked out. At least for one night.

Even leading by as many as 21 at one point in the second half, the Pittsburg State Gorillas never made the Blue Tigers comfortable.

"We told the staff at halftime it's more like an NBA team in the way that they can score in bunches," Lincoln men's basketball coach John Moseley said following Thursday night's 96-85 victory at Jason Gym, "so no lead is ever safe with them."

A 13-2 Lincoln run early in the second half grew the Blue Tiger lead to 63-42 with 15:09 remaining.

It only took about five minutes for Gorillas to get back within single digits.

Donovan Franklin converted a three-point play and added a second-chance basket before Demetrius Levarity made a corner 3 in just a minute-and-a-half span to make it 69-61 with 10:04 remaining.

But Pittsburg State's trio of scorers was overshadowed by John Burton, Jonell Burton, Ni'Sean Rigmaiden and Terrance Smith.

With the Gorillas within eight with about eight minutes remaining, John Burton provided a spark with his fifth 3-pointer of the game.

A couple minutes later, L'Kielynn Taylor stole the ball and delivered it up to Jonell Burton for a layup to keep Lincoln up by double digits.

With Lincoln in the same situation about a minute later, Darrius Spencer blocked a Grant Lozoya shot and Jonell Burton converted a three-point play at the other end.

The Gorillas could only get back to within seven the rest of the way.

"I thought we had big stops in big moments where were were able to just keep the game under control," Moseley said.

Lozoya entered the game averaging an MIAA-leading 26.8 pointer per game and finished with 24 on 8-of-19 shooting. Franklin, who was third in the conference at 20.1 points per game entering the contest, scored a game-high 25 points on 8-of-20 shooting.

"Lozoya and Franklin are two of the toughest guards to defend in this conference," Moseley said. "I thought we did a really good job. We call it the AI rule. We wanted to try to make them take a bunch of shots to score their points. I think you'll live with that as a coach."

Jonell Burton and John Burton each scored 20 points for the Blue Tigers. Rigmaiden finished with 19 points, five rebounds, eight assists and one turnover from his point guard spot.

"He's getting much more comfortable up top with the basketball," Moseley said of Rigmaiden. "He's setting the table for guys, but at the same time he's able to go get a basket when you need one."

Smith was 6-of-7 from the floor and 3-of-3 at the free-throw line to score 16 points. Six of the eight Blue Tigers that played had at least four rebounds, including a team-high six for Taylor.

"We've lost to a couple good teams and I said this might be the best team we've played," Pittsburg State coach Kim Anderson said. "Just their overall ability to shoot the ball, put the ball on the floor and do different things. They're good."

The 96 points is the most Lincoln has scored all season, but the 85 points the Blue Tigers allowed also tied for the most they've given up this season.

"It's not who we are," Moseley said. "It's who we were able to be tonight, but it's not who we are. We're going to have to be better defensively."

Lincoln opened the game on a 20-6 run in the first six minutes. Lozoya didn't score until the 11:19 mark of the first half, but that was the start of 11 straight points for the 6-foot-3 senior guard.

"We didn't start well and we didn't start well defensively, as well as offensively," Anderson said. "I think what we've got to understand is when you come in here with the leading scorer in the league they're going to guard you. The same with Franklin, so we've got to have other guys step up. John (Moseley) is not dumb. John's a pretty smart coach. So, yeah, he's going to guard you."

Pittsburg State (9-3, 2-1 MIAA) got back to within six at one point in the first half, but Lincoln took a 46-33 lead at halftime.

"I was really proud of the way the guys came out," Moseley said. "I thought we were ready to play. I thought we did a lot of things well tonight and at times we were really good defensively and made them take tough shots. And to their credit, they made some."

Lincoln (9-3, 2-1 MIAA) is back at Jason Gym on Saturday when the Blue Tigers host No. 20 Missouri Southern (11-2, 2-1).

The game will tip off at 3 p.m.