HANCEVILLE – Sophomore guard Marcus Johnson poured in a career-high 26 points, freshman Lee Moore added 19 and the Wallace State men continued to display its strong offensive capabilities Tuesday night in an 83-80 victory over Volunteer (Tenn.) State at Tom Drake Coliseum.
Wallace State (6-1) entered averaging 82 points per game during the season’s first month and narrowly passed that mark against the Pioneers.
“This is a team that just has a strong knack of scoring. In every situation they can put points on the board like you can’t imagine, but we rely on that way too much and that’s been a problem. We hit a drought in the first half where we weren’t scoring, and Volunteer State was able to make a run,” said Wallace State men’s coach John Meeks, whose team won its sixth straight. “We spend countless hours on defense in practice, and it’s our top focus every day. Our guys have to understand there are going to be some nights where we can’t score, and we’re going to have to step up and guard someone.”
Johnson, a 5-foot-11 North Carolina native, has been the Lions’ catalyst during the young season. After averaging 9.9 points as a freshman, Johnson is the fifth in the conference in scoring this season and has broken the 20-point barrier in four games.
Meeks also sees his point guard leading in areas other than the scoring column.
“Marcus has really grown up as a player and as a leader. He put the team on his back tonight (Tuesday) in the second half in a variety of ways and accepted accountability. Marcus and Sean Anthony were in the huddles challenging guys and telling them what they needed to do,” Meeks said. “That’s what sophomore leadership is all about.”
Wallace State maintained a 32-23 advantage with a little less than five minutes left in the first half after Johnson nailed one of his seven 3-pointers of the night. Volunteer State, however, battled back and tied things at 42-42 at the half.
The teams traded leads six times during the opening four minutes of the second half before another 3-pointer by Johnson handed the Lions a 52-49 lead with 15:54 remaining in the game.
Wallace State built as much as an eight-point cushion in the second half, but the feisty Pioneers didn’t fade.
After a timeout, Wallace State’s Cody Farley hit a big bucket in the paint with 28.2 seconds remaining to extend the Lions’ lead to 83-77. Volunteer State’s Joe Prince answered with a 3-pointer with 22.1 seconds left to make it 83-80, and the Pioneers had a chance on their final possession to send the game to overtime, but Joe Wilbert’s 3-point attempt from the right corner was too long.
Farley added 14 points to Wallace State’s output and Darius Joell had 11, nailing three 3’s.
Jamaal Brantley led Volunteer State with 19 points, Wilbert and Justin Perry had 13 apiece and Prince added 11.
Wallace State heads to Panama City, Fla., over the weekend to participate in the Gulf Coast State College Thanksgiving Classic.
Meeks was glad to escape Tuesday night’s game with a win before heading to Florida.
“I think part of our inconsistencies were several things. We had defeated them (Volunteer State) convincingly up there and our guys must not have thought it was going to be too much of a challenge. We also have guys who are missing their families on Thanksgiving break, it’s been cold and rainy and we were coming off the euphoria of beating a top ten team last weekend on the road,” Meeks said. “This weekend is going to be a tough test for us. It’s big for us as a program to see how we compete against what I consider is the best junior college league in the country. We scheduled it for this time of the year because we know we’ve got to mentally and physically tough to be able to have a chance to win.”
For more information about Wallace State athletics, visit wallacestate.edu.
Wallace State Community College
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