A&M-Commerce 76, Southern Arkansas 74
Location: The Field House * Commerce, Texas
Records: A&M-Commerce (3-6); Southern Arkansas (4-5)
Up Next: vs. Harding * Sunday, December 18 * 6 p.m. * Austin, Texas
COMMERCE, Texas – LaBree Sledge capped a furious A&M-Commerce comeback, hitting a layup with the final seconds ticking off the clock as the Lions rally to defeat Southern Arkansas 76-74 at the Field House. The victory snaps a four-game skid for A&M-Commerce, who improve to 3-6 on the year and win their eighth-straight over the Muleriders.
Desmond King led the way for the Lions, finishing with 22 points and five rebounds with Brad Hambrick adding 17 points for A&M-Commerce. Andrew Davis had a big night in the paint for the Lions, recording a double-double with 11 points and a career-high 12 rebounds. Sledge finished with seven points and a career-best 10 assists in helping the Lions to the thrilling last-second victory.
Trailing 73-72 with just over a minute to play, Davis hit a jumper to give A&M-Commerce the lead at 74-73. With the clock winding down, Southern Arkansas' Rodney Hill went to the line to shoot a pair of free throws, but could only connect on one, tying the game at 74-74 with 15 seconds remaining.
After calling a timeout with nine seconds left on the clock to set up a play, Sledge got the ball on the inbounds. But when nothing could materialize, Sledge took matters into his own hands, driving and getting the shot to fall with six-tenths of a second remaining, giving the Lions their third victory of the season.
It was an extremely competitive tilt all night between the Lions and Muleriders as the two teams combined for 12 ties and 12 lead changes. Southern Arkansas took control early, jumping out to a 22-12 lead on A&M-Commerce. But the Lions rallied, outscoring the Muleriders 11-0 to reclaim the lead at 23-22, setting the tone for the evening.
A&M-Commerce would extend its lead to five twice during the opening half, the latter of which came at 37-32 with 3:28 remaining. But Southern Arkansas would close out the half by outscoring A&M-Commerce 9-3, including a jumper from Edwin Ward with 10 seconds left to give the Muleriders the 41-40 lead at halftime.
The second half proved to be even more competitive than the first, as A&M-Commerce and Southern Arkansas combined for eight ties and five lead changes as neither team was able to build more than a four-point lead. The Lions hit 42.9 percent of their shots, compared to 42.1 for the Muleriders, while the pair were nearly equal in free throw percentage as well. But some key free throws and baskets down the stretch swung in the Lions favor.
It was the third victory of the season for A&M-Commerce, all of which have been by three points or less. Two of those wins on the year have come at the hands of the Muleriders, as the Lions defeated Southern Arkansas in another thriller 60-57 in the season opener on Nov. 17.
Hill paced the Muleriders with 26 points while Juvon Demerson recorded 16 points and five rebounds for Southern Arkansas. Chase Spruiell had 11 points in his northeast Texas homecoming while Chris Day added nine points, including hitting seven of eight free throw attempts.
The game against the Muleriders marked the Lions' final home game of the 2011 calendar year. A&M-Commerce heads to Austin this weekend for the 2011 St. Edward's Classic, facing Harding on Sunday, December 18 at 6 p.m. before taking on Henderson State at 2 p.m. Monday, December 19. Those mark the final games of the calendar year for A&M-Commerce, who will then be off until January 4, 2012, when it faces West Texas A&M in Canyon.