|Johnson C. Smith rallies past St. Augustine's to advance in CIAA|
|Minor, Milenkovic lead 70-68 quarterfinal victory|
|Published Thursday, February 27, 2020 12:06 am|
|PHOTO | CURTIS WILSON|
|Johnson C. Smith's Aaron Adair glides past St. Augustine's defender Aaron Johnson-Cash for a basket in the Golden Bulls' 70-68 CIAA tournament win Wednesday at Bojangles' Coliseum. The win advances JCSU's record to 20-7 and a semifinal date against the Fayetteville State-Virginia Union winner Friday at Spectrum Center.|
Johnson C. Smith has a knack for escaping tight spots.
The Golden Bulls ran their record to 8-1 in games decided by five points or less with a 70-68 win against St. Augustine’s Wednesday in the CIAA quarterfinals at Bojangles’ Coliseum. They’ll play Thursday’s Virginia Union-Fayetteville State winner Friday in the semifinals.
JCSU, the Southern Division’s top seed and No. 8 in the Atlantic Region poll, improved to 20-7 but had to fight off underdog St. Augustine’s (12-18), whose defensive pressure frustrated the Golden Bulls until the final seven minutes. After connecting on a measly 4-of-21 shots in the first half (19%), JCSU found the range, hitting 52.6% after the break (14-of-40). As usual, seniors Cayse Minor and Nenad Milenkovic led the way with 25 and 19 points respectively.
“Our coaches told us to stay patient, try to provide some leadership for the younger guys,” said Minor, who hit 6-of-12 shots and scored 19 points after intermission. “We didn’t get too rattled. We’ve been in these situations all year and we’ve won tight games, so we knew we had to come out as a team to win.”
St. Augustine’s, led by Karaan Clemonts’ 19 points and Nilous Hodge’s 17, were more than a match for the Golden Bulls until foul trouble caught up to them. The Falcons committed 34 personals compared to JCSU’s 20 and the Golden Bulls made them pay, draining 39-of-51 free throws compared to the Falcons’ 25-of-27. Minor hit 12-of-14 tries; Milenkovic went 11-of-14.
“I was very impressed with what St. Aug was able to do,” Golden Bulls coach Steve Joyner said. “On the other end of the stick…opening games are usually very tough on teams, tough on players and tough on coaches. We didn’t play our best ball game but did enough to win.”
JCSU, which extended its win streak to a season-best seven straight games, trailed 31-25 at the break before sparking to life behind Minor and Milenkovic, who combined for 29 points after intermission. Although St. Augustine’s bench outscored the Golden Bulls’ 22-10, JCSU made up for it at the free throw line – a common theme throughout the season.
“What they did is what we expected, what we planned for,” Joyner said. “They were true to their game plan. I thought we were very impatient defensively, very impatient offensively the first half and it led to a low-scoring first half for us and certainly a tight ball game. We settled down a little bit in the second half, played with a lot more understanding, a lot more patience and we were able to move ahead at that point.”
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