Shooting the ball well was something the Lincoln Blue Tigers were confident they would do this season, but they aren't a one-trick pony.
Lincoln distributed the ball on the perimeter, cut through the lane for layups, found open bigs underneath the basket and scored in transition Saturday to open the season with an 86-80 victory against the Central Missouri Mules at Jason Gym.
"I think that's the way this team is going to be," Lincoln coach John Moseley said. "We've got several different guys that can score from different places."
For a stretch in the first half, Yaniel Vidal couldn't miss from beyond the arc.
The junior college transfer made back-to-back 3s — one from the top of the key and the other from the corner — to put Lincoln ahead 12-9 about five minutes into the contest. Lincoln led the rest of the way.
The corner remained friendly for Vidal, who drained a 3 for a 24-13 lead and drew a foul in the final minute for a four-point play.
UCM's Ante Sustic scored the final basket of the first half on a layup with :17 on the clock to make the score 39-30 at the break.
Vidal was the leading scorer for the balanced Blue Tigers with 20 points on 4-of-5 shooting from deep and a 6-of-9 mark at the line.
"He's a shooter, that's what he does," Moseley said. "He's just got a feel for the game. He kind of knows how to float to the right spot to get himself open."
With so much defensive attention needed on the perimeter, Lincoln big man Sevon Witt got open looks underneath the basket on his way to 19 points in just 24 minutes on the floor.
Before fouling out late, the 6-foot-8 Witt helped the Blue Tigers close out the Mules with a second-chance basket and a reverse layup off an assist from Quinton Drayton in the closing minutes.
"He's got a great set of hands, he rebounds the ball really well," Moseley said. "I think he's a piece that will make teams have to think about how they want to defend us."
Witt came up just short of a double-double with nine rebounds.
Drayton was also a key piece in holding off the Mules, taking the ball away in the backcourt for a layup before knocking down an off-the-dribble 3 from the top of the key to make the score 66-60.
Drayton added four free throws in the final four minutes to cap off a 14-point day.
Cameron Potts attacked the rim to create scoring opportunities when shots weren't falling for the Blue Tigers, making 6-of-8 at the free-throw line for a 12-point performance. He added four rebounds and three assists.
Moseley said he was pleased with Potts' ability to defend UCM's Cameron Hunter, who scored a game-high 24 points. Hunter is a transfer from Division I school North Dakota State.
Another Division I transfer, Ja'Cor Nelson, finished with 18 points for the Mules. Nelson played three seasons with the Campbell Camels.
"I'm sure they feel like they can come down and compete at a high level, and they did a good job," Moseley said of Hunter and Nelson. "I thought Cam did a really good job on (Hunter), trying to make it as tough as he could for him."
Rounding out the double-digit scorers for Lincoln was Ni'Sean Rigmaiden, who added 11 points and eight boards.
Saturday's game began a 22-game schedule in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association for the Blue Tigers, who won't see the Mules again until the regular-season finale Feb. 27 in Warrensburg.
Lincoln's next game is Saturday against Missouri Southern (2-0) at Jason Gym.
Paul McMahon, a former all-state basketball player for the Jefferson City Jays, is serving as head coach for the Lions while coach Jeff Boschee is in quarantine.
Boschee announced Wednesday his wife, Jamie Boschee, tested positive for COVID-19.