A&M-Commerce 78, Arkansas-Fort Smith 77
Location: Burg Center * Dallas Baptist University * Dallas, Texas
Records: A&M-Commerce (2-2); Arkansas-Fort Smith (5-2)
Up Next: vs. Midwestern State * Wednesday, Nov. 30 * 8 p.m. * Commerce, Texas
DALLAS – Trailing by four with less than a minute to play, senior Desmond King hit a jumper to cut the gap to two, followed by the eventual game-winning three-pointer by senior Brad Hambrick with 29 seconds remaining as A&M-Commerce rallies past Arkansas-Fort Smith 78-77 in the final game of the Patriot Thanksgiving Classic at the Burg Center.
The senior duo of King and Hambrick paced the Lions all night as both recorded 17 points in the victory for A&M-Commerce. King hit seven-of-11 shots from the floor with five rebounds while Hambrick was six-of-eight, including a perfect four-for-four from three-point range, with a pair of boards for the Lions.
Preston Whitley provided a spark off the bench, contributing 13 points in 13 minutes of work, while Devondrick Walker added nine points, including a crucial five-for-five from the free throw line, in the first start of his A&M-Commerce career. Justin Fairman also had his biggest game as a Lion, finishing with eight points.
After getting off to a sluggish start the previous night against Dallas Baptist, the Lions once again stumbled out of the gates, hitting just one of their first five shots while committing three turnovers, building an early nine-point deficit at 12-3 with just under 15 minutes remaining in the opening half.
A&M-Commerce whittled the lead to two at 13-11 off a 9-1 run, only to see the other Lions put together a scoring surge of their own, building a game-high 11-point advantage at 24-13 with just over eight minutes remaining in the opening half. Both teams put small runs together down the stretch as Arkansas-Fort Smith took a 41-34 lead into halftime.
As it did the previous night, A&M-Commerce came out aggressive in the second half, using a 17-4 run over the first four minutes to take its first lead of the game, building a six-point advantage at 51-45. Seven different Lions scored during the streak, capped by a Fairman three-pointer at the 16:03 mark.
The Lions would extend that lead to eight at 56-48, only to see Arkansas-Fort Smith outscore them 27-12 over the next 12 minutes to reclaim the advantage, leading 75-68 with just under four minutes remaining in the game.
A&M-Commerce pulled to within two at 75-73 off three free throws from Whitley with 2:34 remaining. Arkansas-Fort Smith was able to burn over a minute off the clock with back-to-back possessions, culminating with a jumper to give the Lions a 77-73 advantage with 1:13 left.
Arkansas-Fort Smith appeared in control until a steal from King led to his jumper, pulling A&M-Commerce to within two at 77-75 with 39 seconds remaining. Pressure from the Lions forced a quick Arkansas-Fort Smith turnover, and the ball went back into the hands of Hambrick, who connected on his fourth three of the evening to give the Lions the one-point advantage with 29 seconds remaining. UAFS missed a pair of three pointers in the waning seconds as A&M-Commerce escaped with the one-point victory in the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
A&M-Commerce shot 49.1 percent for the game, hitting 26-of-53 shots, but where the difference came was from beyond the three-point arc where the Lions connected on 10-of-19 attempts for a 52.6 percentage. A&M-Commerce also cut down its turnover total, recording just 16 compared to 23 from the previous game.
Arkansas-Fort Smith was led by 21 points from Jake Toupal as he pulled in six rebounds for the Lions. Kelson Steward added 11 points and six rebounds while Shawn Grant finished with 10 points. Djordje Stojanovich, the Heartland Conference Preseason Player of the Year, just missed a double-double, finishing with nine points and eight rebounds for Arkansas-Fort Smith.
With four games in the books, A&M-Commerce finally takes the floor at the Field House for the first time this season, playing in both its home and Lone Star Conference opener this Wednesday, Nov. 30, when it hosts Midwestern State. Opening tip against the Mustangs is set for 8 p.m., or 30 minutes following the conclusion of the women's game.