The Dalton State Roadrunners (16-1) knocked off NAIA Division I powerhouse Faulkner University (9-5) Saturday afternoon at the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center, 69-67.
Dalton used tenacious defense to overcome the disadvantage of playing one of the nation’s best rebounding and free throw shooting teams. Saturday night attendance was 1,144.
The defending Southern States Athletic Conference champs came into the game as a top ten rebounding team in NAIA. They were also the #3 foul shooting team with an average of 75.7%. They did even better than that in Dalton.
Faulkner’s largest lead was six, 37-31 with 3:18 before the break and 42-36 with 17:38 remaining in the game. The Eagles half time lead was 37-34. Dalton State took the lead for good on a three point shot by senior guard Ricky Sears (43-42) with 13:49 left, but both teams kept fighting.
Holding the visitors scoreless for eight minutes, the Roadrunners built an 11-point lead (57-46) with 6:45 to go on another Sears shot from outside. The Eagles were forced to start fouling and the strategy almost paid off. They whittled the DS lead down to the final two-point margin.
Faulkner outrebounded the hosts 53 to 37 and made 12 of 15 free throws (80%). Seven of their first-half points were from the charity stripe while Dalton State had not shot a single free throw at the break. By game’s end, the Roadrunners had hit 15 of 26 (57.7%).
At the end of the game, Dalton State had tallied 21 points off turnovers to 12 for Faulkner. Ingle credits the defensive effort.
“It takes team work to do that,” Roadrunner Coach Tony Ingle said. “They have to help each other and be there for each other.”
“I’m proud of the team,” said Ingle. “It was a hard fought game from the very beginning. It told us a lot about ourselves. We have a lot of things to work on.”
Sears led Dalton scorers with 19 points including 5 of 8 from three-point range.”
“We have a lot of confidence in each other,” Sears said. “Our team thinks they (Faulkner) are a really good team, but I think we should be nationally ranked too. We fought hard for 40 minutes.”
Anthony Hilliard and Erich Allen came off the bench to score 27 points (14 points for Hilliard and 13 for Allen).
Sean Tate added 10 and Preston Earle nine. Tate was 8 of 10 from the foul line. Demetrice Jacobs had nine rebounds to seven for Hilliard.
“We had to play some strategy,” said Ingle. “We can’t beat them if we don’t have our best players on the floor.”
“Some players were in foul trouble so we went into a delay game with some calculated plays,” Ingle added. “We had the clock working for us. We had Sean in the game. Sean had three fouls and we need him on the floor. He got fouled and he went to the line and he made his foul shots.”
“The guys executed well. I couldn’t ask anymore of them. I couldn’t ask anything more. They were 17th in the nation, they were physical, but we played 40 minutes of basketball.”
Four of Faulkner’s starting five reached double figures in scoring and the fifth had 15 rebounds.
Jake Mitchell and Stephen Strachan each scored 15, Jamarious Alderson 12, and Riley Corey 11. Cyrille Sandjon was the rebound leader.
The Roadrunners only have five more home games this season.
They host Spring Hill College from Mobile, Ala., Monday at 5:30 p.m. The game was originally scheduled for 7:00, but was moved up to accommodate fans wanting to watch live basketball and the BCS football national championship game.