A lightning-fast run turned a relatively tight contest into the second blowout in as many days for Augusta State, as the Jaguars routed Carson-Newman 87-67 Sunday at Christenberry Fieldhouse.
But what it did for the confidence of one particular Jaguar meant even more.
After Carson-Newman cut the lead to eight with 3.4 seconds left in the first half, redshirt sophomore guard Steve Smith took the inbounds pass, dribbled past a defender and tossed up a 3-pointer from the left wing, just past halfcourt. The ball rattled around the basket after the buzzer sounded, finally dropping in and sending the Jaguars running toward the locker room.
"Two days ago, me and Coach (Robbie) McKinlay were shooting half-court shots seeing who could make the first one. But I didn't think about it then," Smith said. "Even though it pumped up the team, we really stayed focused and came out strong in the second half."
Smith's shot jump-started a 15-0 run that, in only three minutes' time, gave the Jaguars a comfortable 53-30 lead early in the second half. The run was completed by an emphatic slam dunk by forward Tyrekus Bowman, who finished with 16 points, one of four Jaguars with 15 or more on the afternoon.
But Smith, a transfer from Belmont Abbey, seemed to outshine them all in only his eighth career game at Augusta State, knocking down 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions, including the 45-foot, half-ending shot.
Filling in for an injured Demetrius Howard, the regular starter at shooting guard who played just four minutes, Smith nearly matched his season total in points (16) by scoring 15.
While Smith shined, 6-foot-11 center Garret Siler seemed to completely intimidate the Eagles' smaller front line.
The sophomore finished with 14 rebounds, including six on the offensive end, and 17 points on 8 of 12 shooting in notching his third consecutive double-double and fourth overall this season.
He also blocked four shots to nearly match his Peach Belt Conference-leading blocks average of 4.33 entering the game.
"I'm trying to keep the aggressiveness that I've played with, but I'm also trying to play a little smarter," Siler said. "I'm being smarter with my game. When I can read the plays and just get my hands up, I can usually make the play on defense."
After a strong defensive showing early for both teams, Augusta State (6-2) seized the advantage by keeping up the defensive pressure against the Eagles (6-4) and establishing a balanced attack on offense.
But the key, according to Jaguars coach Dip Metress, was winning the turnover battle. Augusta State forced 19 and committed a season-low 8.
"That's really hurt us this year," said Metress, in his third year at Augusta State.
"Being able to cause turnovers allowed us to come out of the gates so strong in the second half. We did have a tough stretch after that, but we really closed them out at the end."
The Jaguars showed no ill effects in playing a game on a second consecutive day.
After defeating Paine 87-59 on Saturday night, Augusta State again put up 87 points to equal its season high.
The team had its best showing of the season from the perimeter, shooting 11 of 22 from behind the arc, led by Smith's 4-for-6 effort.
Reach Justin Williams at email@example.com.
AUGUSTA STATE 87,
CARSON-NEWMAN (6-4) - Andy Tipton 4-7 2-2 11, Clay Scott 1-3 1-3 3, Kente Hart 4-7 3-4 11, Darren Williams 4-10 0-0 12, Scott Williams 2-8 2-2 7, Jesse McMurray 0-3 0-0 0, Andrew Johnson 4-5 0-0 9, Jordan Dixon 1-3 2-2 4, Deonte Williams 2-4 2-2 6, Matt Glab 1-2 2-2 4. Totals: 23-52 14-17 67.
AUGUSTA STATE (6-2) - Ben Madgen 7-13 0-0 16, Tyrekus Bowman 5-13 5-6 16, Garret Siler 8-12 1-3 17, Daniel Dixon 2-4 3-4 9, Steve Smith 5-8 1-2 15, Demetrius Howard 1-2 0-0 3, Jamie Quarles 0-1 0-0 0, Howard Brown 1-1 0-0 2, Robertas Kleiva 2-2 0-0 5, Etsho Ilunga 1-3 0-0 2, Arthur Thomas 0-4 0-0 0, Luke Tambon 1-3 0-0 2, Kip Small 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 33-68 10-15 87.
Halftime: Augusta State, 41-30. 3-point goals: Carson-Newman 7-19 (Tipton 1-2, Hart 0-1, Darren Williams 4-8, S. Williams 1-3, McMurray 0-3, Johnson 1-1, Dixon 0-1), Augusta State 11-22 (Madgen 2-4, Bowman 1-3, Dixon 2-3, Smith 4-6, Howard 1-1, Kleiva 1-1, Thomas 0-2, Tambon 0-1, Small 0-1. Rebounds: Carson-Newman 34 (S. Williams 6), Augusta State 35 (Siler 14). Assists: Carson-Newman 11 (Hart 7), Augusta State 23 (Small 6).
Fouled out: None. A: 702.