The scouting report for the Wilberforce (Ohio) University Bulldogs indicated they would put pressure on the offense. The No. 19 Freed-Hardeman Lions answered with a full-court press of their own. The men in maroon and white did a better job of working out of the high-pressure defense by bucketing a season-high point total to best Wilberforce 104-61.
After the Lions (12-2, 9-0 MSC) gave up a 3-pointer to start the contest, Hunter Scurlock bucketed back-to-back points in the paint to put FHU on top. It would not be the last time FHU drove into the lane to bucket points, as FHU would total 68 points in the paint. After the Bulldogs put a layup in the hoop, FHU would have no trouble with the press, scoring 16 unanswered points in three minutes’ time to explode to a 20-5 advantage with 16:01 remaining in the first half. Four of those points came as a direct result of the strong defensive pressure, with Geraldo Lane and Peyton Law getting points on the fast break. After Wilberforce went back on the board with a set of field goals and a pair of free throws, the Lions went on another tear, by scoring 12 unanswered points capped by Alex Rush’s layup. Wilberforce found the hoop a few more times from the floor in the first half, but it was their free-throw shooting that helped the most. The Bulldogs went 8-9 from the charity stripe in the first half, but the Lions continued their offensive onslaught, ending the first half on a 9-0 run to head to the break leading 64-31.
After Ryley McClaran opened up the second half with FHU’s first 3-pointer of the game, Wilberforce (1-13, 0-9 MSC) started picking their shots better, scoring six points in the paint in the opening two minutes of the second act. It was Freed-Hardeman’s turn at the free-throw line that shone in the second half, with Dawson Bailey and Alex Rush scoring six from the charity stripe to help FHU expand their lead to 43 at 13:05. Both teams began to show signs of a 40-minute press, with Wilberforce missing their last seven shots from the floor and the Lions leaning on their bench’s depth, seeing Zach Baugher’s jumper with 1:56 to go that pushed FHU past the century mark before the horn sounded on a 104-61 final.
Both teams attempted 72 shots from the floor in the game, with the Bulldogs converting 32% of their attempts with 23 makes – while FHU’s 41 makes tallied 57% from the field. FHU turned the ball over 29 times, while Wilberforce coughed up the ball 27 times; however, the Lions turned those into points by out-scoring the Bulldogs 36-27 off of turnovers.
Alex Rush led FHU’s high-octane offense by bucketing a career-high 15 points. Ryley McClaran followed with a 14-point effort, with Dawson Bailey and JaQuan Lax chasing with 13. Geraldo Lane and JJ Wheat rounded off the double-digit scoring, with Lane tallying 13 and Wheat 10. Lax was knocking on the door of a double-double, stealing away eight possessions.
Up Next – The Lions will break for Christmas before returning to action one more time in 2022 by facing former Mid-South foe Point (Ga.) University. Tipoff from the Brewer Sports Center is set for 3 p.m. on Friday, December 30.