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Sports

JCSU’s good, but can Bulls close?
Toughness tested in the clutch
 
Published Wednesday, December 11, 2013 10:22 am
by Herbert L. White

Johnson C. Smith basketball coach Steve Joyner, generally a loquacious sort, wasn’t too happy with his Golden Bulls in Monday’s last-second 90-89 loss to Wingate at Brayboy Gym.

“We found a way not to play defense,” Joyner deadpanned. “(Wingate) made more three-point plays down the stretch than anybody I’ve ever seen because we stopped playing defense. Hats off to them because they had enough guts and character to do what they needed to win, and we did not.”

Missing guts and character in the clutch? Ouch.

At 6-2, the Golden Bulls aren’t exactly doormats. They’ve beat Queens for the first time in three tries and erased a 20-point deficit to Wingate before falling in overtime.  What had to be perplexing was the way JCSU lost. The Golden Bulls had a seven-point advantage with three minutes left, only to give it totally away. They missed free throws and couldn’t stop Ryan Daye (33 points) or Deion Turman (30 points) in the clutch. Daye, by the way, hit the three-pointer with 2.9 seconds left to win the game for Wingate.

The Golden Bulls were close, but not close enough to putting Wingate in a real bind. You’ve got to give the Bulldogs credit for hanging on against a determined opponent on its home floor, which Wingate coach Brian Good credited his squad.

“Out of all the things to take from tonight, the one thing is we didn’t quit,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of teams blow that lead and cower and it’s over. I’m just so proud of them. They just kept scratching and clawing.”

JCSU did, too, behind LaMarquise Letchaw, who scored 19 of his team-high 25 points in the second half. The Golden Bulls just couldn’t land the game-clinching haymaker when it had a chance, which is what is so exasperating. Twice it’s led to overtime and both times they failed to seal the deal, which is the difference between 6-2 and undefeated.

It’s tough to figure whether JCSU can hone a killer instinct. Offensively, the Golden Bulls are diverse but not overwhelming. Joyner knows this, so he’s emphasizing defensive tenacity. If they figure it out, fewer foes will be able to get off the hook in crunch time. 

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