With little size and less depth, Augusta State’s four corners offense did almost everything right Wednesday night.
Defense, especially in the second half, was another issue.
Jareal Smith swished a baseline jumper in the waning moments as Lander scored the final seven points to upend the Jaguars, 58-56.
The Bearcats dominated on offense in the second half, shooting 76 percent from the field. Lander converted 13 of 15 attempts inside the perimeter.
“Credit goes to them,” Augusta State coach Dip Metress said. “They shoot 76 percent, they’re going to beat you.”
The Jaguars dropped their fourth game this season at Christenberry Fieldhouse, falling to 12-11 overall (7-9 Peach Belt). With Flagler’s loss to Francis Marion, Augusta State retained its half-game lead over the Saints for fourth place in the East Division with three games remaining. The top four teams in each division advance to the conference tournament.
“We’ve got to be able to beat Francis Marion on our home court,” Metress said about Saturday’s homecoming affair. “Then we have two road games left. If we would’ve gotten this one, it sure would’ve helped us.”
Sophomore guard Devonte Thomas added: “We’re going to try our hardest to win these last three games,” Thomas said. “We’re going to try to get that four seed on the bracket.”
Augusta State appeared to be in good shape to create separation with Flagler when it dug out of a seven-point hole early in the second half thanks to nine 3-pointers, five by Thomas, after intermission. D’Angelo Boyce who posted 12 points and 11 assists, converted a three-point play to stake the Jaguars to a 56-51 lead with 2:20 remaining.
After Dermaine Smith scored on a layup for two of his game-high 27 points, Thomas missed a 3-pointer. Then, Lander’s David Pruett followed with a 3-pointer that circled around the rim and fell in to tie the game.
Augusta’s Ryan Weems drove the lane but lost the ball with 45 seconds to go. On the other end, Jereal Smith drove around Boyce, pulling up for a 10-foot baseline jumper with eight seconds left. Boyce took the inbounds pass, driving the length of the floor. His running shot from 12 feet missed off the rim.
“We didn’t lose focus with what we were trying to do,” said Thomas, who led the Jaguars with 15 points. “We just gave up opportunities on the defensive end. We didn’t get the loose balls, the tips. That kind of hurt us.”