The first half of Wednesday night’s Appalachian Athletic Conference showdown between Bryan men’s basketball and visiting Truett McConnell University (Ga.) saw a total of five ties and 12 lead changes, setting up a second half sure to be a clash between two schools duking it out for a big conference win.
The latter period provided even more excitement for the fans in Summers Gymnasium, as the Lion Pride cheered on the home team back from an 11-point deficit at the 16-minute mark to a tie ballgame with 6:53 remaining, 64-64.
The back and forth punches continued, giving way to ties at 67-67, 69-69, and 77-77. After Isaiah McClain’s spark provided early in the period to get Bryan back in the fight, it was then Brandon Thomas dominating the paint, AJ Jones capitalizing at both mid-range and with his drive, and Noah Mulaski using his touch around the rim and efficient free throw shooting that helped put the Lions in the driver’s seat 77-74 with 1:50 left to play. The Bears countered with four unanswered points to regain an advantage, 78-77, with 1:17 on the clock. Needing a crucial basket, the Lions went back to Thomas underneath where he drew the foul and made the back end on his trip to the foul line to level the score 78-78. On the next possession, Truett was hoping to put the pressure on Bryan, but instead, the Lions forced a tough shot inside by the Bears and had McClain rise up and snag the rebound. After a timeout to draw-up the potential game-winning play, the ball was inbounded to Jones, who let most of the time expire before making his move to the other side of the court. Thomas made a hard cut across the lane, caught the ball, and in one motion went up for the shot. With a pair of Truett players covering him, his shot was off-target and caught the side of the backboard. While most watched the ball, it was Thomas who followed the shot, grabbed his own offensive rebound, and knocked down the second-chance basket despite contact from several Bears. Even though Thomas’ and-one wasn’t completed, his game-winning shot with 5.7 seconds left was followed by a defensive effort that wouldn’t even allow Truett a desperation shot on their final possession.
Bryan pulled off the comeback victory and stunned Truett in heartbreaking fashion 80-78, bumping their overall record to an even 10-10 and AAC record to 9-7. Truett was unable to snap their losing streak, growing it to 14 straight. The Bears are now 6-15 overall and 2-14 in conference action.
Thomas finished 7-of-14 from the floor and 6-of-9 at the free throw line for a team-high 20 points. McClain produced 17 points, registered five rebounds, and tied KJ Hawkins for the team-best assists with two apiece. Jones was the only other Lion in double-digits, ending with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting and a perfect 4-for-4 at the charity stripe. Keaton Dotson chipped in nine points on a trio of three’s. Another notable performance came from Trey Spencer who delivered six points and a team-leading six rebounds, aiding Bryan in edging Truett 32-31 on the boards. As a team, Bryan shot just under 52 percent and took advantage of their free throws, making 12-of-15. Truett outshot Bryan from outside with a 45 three-point percentage, but the Bears ended with 47 percent shooting for the game and hitting only 9-of-13 at the foul line.
After a three-game losing streak, the Lions are back in the hunt with a win and will try to capture their second straight W this Saturday, Jan. 25 at 4pm when they play host to the Yellow Jackets of Allen University (S.C.). Allen stands at 12-7 overall and 11-7 in the AAC.