Lycoming men defeat Hood

CHRIS DOWNS/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Lycoming’s Ryan Hollis looks to take a shot against Hood on Saturday at Lycoming in a Middle Atlantic Conference game.

There’s not a coach out there who wouldn’t prefer to be battling for a postseason berth instead of playing for pride, but on Saturday, the Lycoming men’s basketball team ignored its record, were dialed in from long range, and came away plenty proud of its 107-100 Middle Atlantic Conference Commonwealth triumph over Hood.

Freshman Matt Ilodigwe tied a school record by knocking down 11 3-pointers (11 of 15) and scoring a game-high 33 points as the Warriors hit on 24 of 39 shots from beyond the arc.

“I was open and my teammates just found me, and I thank them,” said Ilodigwe after the record-tying performance. “I came to the gym early in the day and shot around with coach … In warm-ups I was feeling it. Coach wanted us to be aggressive against the 2-3 zone, find the gaps, and be ready to shoot, we were.”

The Warriors (10-14, 4-11 MAC Commonwealth) entered Saturday’s game with the worst record in the conference,and out of playoff contention, and the Blazers (15-8 overall, 9-5 MAC Commonwealth), entered the game second in the conference and jockeying for postseason position with one week remaining in the regular season.

The rookie campaign of Lycoming coach Mike McGarvey has had its fair share of growing pains, but for 40 minutes at Lamade Gymnasium, the Warriors played like a seasoned squad. Less than five minutes into the game, the frantic pace was set, as Lycoming charged out to a 12-3 lead, on the strength of four straight triples, highlighted by the Ilodigwe’s first two treys.

Hood coach Chad Dickman used a timeout to settle down the Blazers. The first two-point field goal of the game was tallied by Hood’s Mason Wang (team-high 29 points) on a jumper at the 14:31 mark. The visiting team narrowed the Warriors’ advantage to 13-12, but were unable to take the lead as Ilodigwe ripped the net with another 3-pointer. Hood would get close in the first half, but never lead.

“Once the first two 3-pointers went in, I was like ‘Ya, I’m on!'” The 6-foot freshman guard from Wilmington, Delaware, said. “Coach kept encouraging me and kept working on getting my feet set, being low into my shot, and staying with my follow-through. He told me I was going to have a big game.”

Lycoming kept fending off the Blazers for the remainder of the half, and went into the break with a 44-37 cushion. The Warriors shooting percentage from beyond the arc (10 of 18) was better than from close range (14 of 30), but that has been consistent with McGarvey’s offensive approach.

“It feels great to score a lot of points because that is what we are capable of,” McGarvey said. “When this season is over, we’ll look back on the games where we shot less than 20 percent from 3-point range and wonder what could have been. We have a bunch of guys who can make multiple shots over the course of a game, so I am proud the team has continued to shoot and believe.”

Protecting the ball was key said McGarvey, citing 23 turnovers in this season’s first match-up with Hood. In this game, the Warriors had only nine turnovers through 20 minutes. Showing poise and possessing the ball kept the Blazers from applying sustained pressure. For the game, Lycoming committed 17 total turnovers, while forcing 19 turnovers.

In the second half, the Warriors eventually built a 24-point lead, 69-54, with under 11 minutes to play. Keyed by Darius James (12 points) and Hiro Yamaki (11 points) Lycoming’s backcourt rotation made it tough on Hood’s defense, but the Blazers would not go away.

“(Hood) was able to trap without fouling, and we lost our cool a couple of times,” McGarvey said. “Still, we stayed confident and played at our tempo. We’ve talked a lot about making ‘the next pass,’ taking what the defense gives you, and make good decisions.”

Maintaining its lead through the last 10 minutes, while getting the bench some valuable action, the Warriors were able to close out the solid and satisfying victory.

Remaining calm has been part of the learning curve for the young Warriors. This effort was another step forward Ilodigwe said. “It’s been a good season even though we’ve lost some games,” he admitted. “We needed to have people step up, including me, and I feel I’ve gotten better.

“Early in the year I wasn’t playing much, but I stayed with it. Coach kept encouraging me and kept working on getting my feet set, being low into my shot, and staying with my follow-through.”

Ilodigwe’s long-range performance tied Tom Wesner’s mark for 3s in a game, set in 2002 against Lincoln University.

His team’s breakout game didn’t come as a surprise to McGarvey. The Warriors’ coach admitted his team has been getting better in many areas despite the team’s record. “I have confidence in our players to make good decisions. We’ve preached giving up an OK shot for a great shot, and our guys are buying into it.”

Hood did close Lycoming’s eventual margin, but it could not prevent another 100-plus point loss to its Commonwealth foes. Last season’s trip to Dutch Burch Court resulted in 106-105 overtime loss for Blazers, which was also the last time Lycoming scored 100 points in a game.

Lycoming 107, Hood 100

HOOD (15-8, 9-5 MACC)

Mason Wang 8-19 9-10 29; Keith Claiborne Jr. 4-4 6-8 14; Kobe Butler 4-9 5-8 13; Michael Riley 4-10 2-2 12; Evan Wang 3-10 1-3 9; Ian Eversull 3-5 0-0 7; Tyler Evans 2-5 1-2 5; Nicholas Woods 2-4 0-0 5; Christopher Smalls 2-2 0-0 4; Jared Ruiz 1-2 0-0 2; Brice Moore 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 33-70 24-33 100.

LYCOMING (10-14, 4-11 MACC)

Matt Ilodigwe 11-16 0-0 33; Ryan Hollis 4-5 1-2 13; Calvin Chandler 4-15 1-2 13; Darius James 3-4 4-6 12; Hiro Yamaki 4-8 0-2 11; Nasir Akram 4-4 1-4 9; Darius Dangerfield 0-3 4-4 4; Serge Cole 2-3 0-0 4; Amir Davis 0-0 2-2 2; Vimire Jenkins 1-3 0-0 2; Nicholas Balfour 1-1 0-2 2; Christian Diggs 1-1 0-0 2; D’Yante Doughty 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 35-63 13-24 107.

Halftime: Lycoming, 44-37. 3-point goals: Hood 10-35 (Wang 4-12; Wang 2-7; Riley 2-7; Woods 1-1; Eversull 1-2; Ruiz 0-1; Evans 0-3; Butler 0-2), Lycoming 24-39 (Ilodigwe 11-15; Hollis 4-5; Chandler 4-7; Yamaki 3-7; James 2-2; Cole 0-1; Dangerfield 0-2). Fouled out: Hood-none, Lycoming-Jenkins. Rebounds: Hood 35 (Woods 6), Lycoming 37 (Chandler 11). Assists: Hood 14 (Smalls 4), Lycoming 30 (Hollis 10). Total fouls: Hood 23, Lycoming 31. Technical fouls: Hood-Butler, Lycoming-Jenkins. A: 203.