Augusta State’s heart grew three sizes larger Saturday night after its star player was ejected midway through the first half.
D’Angelo Boyce and Travis Keels each posted career games as the Jaguars rallied together for a 72-53 men’s basketball win over North Georgia.
Augusta State improved to 6-6 overall, 2-2 in Peach Belt Conference play. The Jaguars also avoided back-to-back losses at Christenberry Fieldhouse; Augusta State has never dropped consecutive home contests in Dip Metress’ eight-year tenure.
After an 11-point defeat Wednesday to Armstrong Atlantic State, Metress shook up the starting lineup. Boyce started at point guard, while Devonte Thomas started at shooting guard. The move worked.
Boyce delivered his first career double-double with 15 points and 11 assists. Thomas, who got in early foul trouble, added three points.
With Boyce leading the offense and playing a career-high 32 minutes, Augusta State posted a season-high 25 assists against just eight turnovers.
“(Boyce) played very well, and it was contagious,” Metress said. “The ball moved well.”
Augusta State got off to a fast start, but the team took a major blow when leading scorer Harold Doby was ejected with 9:46 left in the first half.
After getting fouled on a drive to the basket, Doby walked to the foul line. Then, North Georgia’s Scott Windom, got in his face. Doby slapped Smith, drawing a technical. The three referees discussed the play, eventually calling the slap a Flagrant 2 foul – the most severe penalty.
Doby was ejected and will serve a one-game suspension Wednesday, when Augusta State plays host to Lander; Metress plans to appeal the suspension.
Doby departed the floor with just two points and one rebound, and the Jaguars trailed 19-15, facing a huge void in the middle of the paint.
“Doby’s a heck of a player,” Boyce said. “Everybody just had to step up.”
Keels, a junior center, did just that, scoring 19 of his career-high 21 points after the Doby ejection.
Keels, who took just 11 shots the previous three games, converted 10 of 14 attempts and added three blocks.
“I’ve just tried to get in the gym and get up more shots,” Keels said. “Working on my shot helped me build some confidence. My coaches and teammates had confidence in me. I just needed to have confidence myself. I did tonight.”
Devon Wright-Nelson and O’Neal Armstrong each added 11 points for Augusta State. The Jaguars shot 53 percent from the floor, their highest percentage of the season. North Georgia shot 38 percent from the field. Scott Windham led the Saints with 18 points.