Clutch Free Throws Propel VWU to Victory
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- The Virginia Wesleyan University men's basketball team converted on all four free throw attempts taken in the final minute to secure a 68-67 defeat of William Peace University in the season opener Wednesday.
The Marlins maintained a lead for most of the first half, before the two squads went back and forth for the duration of the final 20 minutes. A large part of the William Peace rally was the Pacers' improvement on a 7.7% first-half three-point percentage. The Pacers shot 33.3% from deep in the second half, including five three-pointers, four of which came from Camden Ferguson.
VWU led 45-35 on a Corey White, Jr. layup with 16:23 to go. William Peace responded with an 8-0 run to cut the lead to a single possession. WPU held the Marlins scoreless for nearly four minutes over that span.
Ferguson connected on back-to-back three-pointers to cut the lead to 45-41. Joshua Jones drove the lane for a layup with 14 minutes to play to cut the lead in half.
The Marlins broke the run in a powerful way when Daevon Brown raced down the lane, jumping over a William Peace defender to dunk back a missed layup. The Pacers did not let the high energy play affect them, scoring an traditional three-point play by Tyson Sellers to cut the lead to one, 47-46. A Trey Bryant put-back layup for the Pacers in the lead for the first time since early in the contest.
Virginia Wesleyan rallied, taking an eight-point lead midway through the second half. The Pacers cut into the lead, keeping the contest close but not managing to go out in front again until late.
White, Jr. put the Marlins up 61-58 with 4:29 remaining, but the Marlins would not score again until 1:35 as WPU regained the lead. Layups by John Burwell and Bryant put the visitors up 62-61 while drawing a lot of crowd noise.
The Marlins answered with a Keijon Honore three-pointer from the top of the key to put VWU up 64-62.
Both teams looked to finish off the game strong, but several empty possessions left the ball with William Peace in the final minute. Sellers made a layup to tie it at 64 with 37 seconds to play.
Virginia Wesleyan ran the clock down, getting the ball to Steward. The sophomore guard drove the lane, looking for a chance to score on his smaller opponent, ultimately drawing the foul. Steward made both attempts to go up 66-64 with eight seconds to play.
Percy Burt forced a turnover in the back court as the Pacers looked to break the Marlin press and get a look before time expired. The Pacers fouled Honore on the inbound pass, and the junior put away both attempts for a 68-64 lead. Burwell knocked down a three-pointer as time expired for the final score.
Ferguson finished with 20 points for William Peace (0-1) while Bryant posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Burwell contributed 14 points.
Steward had 16 points, six rebounds, and three steals for the Marlins while White, Jr. added 14 points and eight rebounds. Tyree Golston had nine points and five assists off the bench.
Virginia Wesleyan (1-0) hosts Johnson & Wales (RI) on Saturday for a 2 p.m. non-conference start.