It didn’t happen right away, but the ESU men’s basketball team finally pulled away from Lincoln University Saturday evening. Poor shooting from beyond the arc in the first half helped keep Lincoln in the game until the Hornets outscored Lincoln by eight points in the second half to win the game 84-60.
“In the first half we’d go out and do what we wanted how we wanted and struggled,” said Head Coach David Moe. “Luckily we were still in the game at halftime, came out in the second half and came out and played the way we needed to play.”
The first half for the Hornets may not have been pretty, but ESU was still able to maintain the lead. Although the Hornets kept Lincoln from shooting well on the defensive end, they struggled themselves as they settled for ten three pointers and made only one. Emporia State was led in the half by senior guard Robert Moores who had 10 of his 12 in the first half.
The Hornets came out sluggish again in the early goings of the second half as Lincoln went on a 10-4 run to open things up and tie the game at 40. However, ESU would counter with a 19-4 run of their own to lead 59-44 with 11:59 remaining.
“Definitely, in the second half, our defense kind of sparked our offense there,” said Senior Guard Matt Boswell who had 11 points and five rebounds. “Once we started getting some stops, we got easier buckets on the offensive end.”
Despite the hot shooting from the Blue Tigers in the second half (65.2 percent), the Hornets were able to force 12 second half turnovers and get easy buckets in transition. After the big run, the Hornets would lead by as many as 20 points with 3:15 left and didn’t allow Lincoln anywhere closer than 14.
Xavier Burnette led the way with 14 points and four rebounds. ESU saw strong contributions from the bench especially from Michael Tyler who scored 14 points and grabbed five rebounds.
“Mike does come off the bench,” Boswell said. “But he’s one of our better players, better scorers. When we get it to him inside, he really uses his body well (and) makes stuff happen for us on the offensive end.”
Barring Wednesday night’s action, the win puts the Hornets at 10-10 in the MIAA and alone in sixth place. The Hornets are a game ahead of Missouri Western and Pittsburg State and two games ahead of Southwest Baptist.
The Hornets played Washburn on Wednesday night in the second round of the Turnpike Tussle. They return to White Auditorium for their final home game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday against Fort Hays State.