|J.C. Smith basketball looks to close January with a rush|
|Golden Bulls 4-1 in the new year|
|Published Wednesday, January 22, 2020 10:18 am|
|PHOTO | TROY HULL|
|Johnson C. Smith guard Cayse Minor (0) leads the Golden Bulls in scoring at 18.3 points per game, fourth best in the CIAA. He also leads the team in 3-point shooting at 34% and free throws percentage (84.8%).|
Johnson C. Smith is in position to contend for the CIAA South lead a month ahead of the league tournament.
The Golden Bulls (11-5 overall, 5-3 conference) are a game out of first heading into Saturday’s 4 p.m. game against Virginia Union (11-8, 4-2 CIAA North) at Brayboy Gym. JCSU, which trails Winston-Salem State in the South, have won four of five in January, including three in a row with a 77-72 road victory Jan. 18 against Livingstone. Virginia Union, which is second in the North, routed the Golden Bulls 84-54 in Richmond on Dec. 18.
In order to reverse the outcomes, JCSU will have to make shots. The Golden Bulls converted 16-of-60 field goal tries (26.7%) and 4-of-29 3-pointers against Union, both season lows. Defensively, they broke down in the second half, allowing the Panthers to hit 18-of-32 shots (56.2%) and 8-of-14 from 3-point range (57.1%) as Virginia Union outscored JCSU 51-24 after the break.
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Part of JCSU’s overall success is turning free throw opportunities into points. The Golden Bulls have 328 conversions in 457 tries (71.8%), only five fewer than opponents’ total attempts (232-of-333). That disparity has helped in January, where they are 3-1 in games decided by five points or less.
As usual, senior shooting guard Cayse Minor is key to JCSU’s success. He’s averaging a team-high 18.1 points per game, which is fourth in the CIAA and connecting on 44.6% of his shots as well as leading the Golden Bulls in 3-point shooting (32-of-94) and free throws at 84.8% (95-of-112).
Nenad Milenkovic provides the complimentary punch at 11.1 points per game and a capable 3-point threat at 24-of-72 beyond the arc, which is second to Minor. Another key for the Golden Bulls is bench scoring. Against Livingstone, JCSU’s reserves outscored the Blue Bears 23-8, which helped offset a 30-point effort by Livingston guard Roger Ray.
Virginia Union is 3-4 in January, with a two-game win streak on the heels of a four-game slide. The Panthers are paced by Terrell Leach, whose 22.0 points per game average is second in the league. Jordan Peebles averages 12.5 points per outing.
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