DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — They had to sweat it out a little bit, but the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats opened the 2018 calendar year on the right foot with an 86-80 win over the visiting South Carolina State Bulldogs in the MEAC opener for both teams.
Wednesday night was a game of runs for both teams, as South Carolina State used a 14-5 run to close the first half to take a 10-point lead into the break. Then, in the second frame, Bethune-Cookman used a 13-0 run to claw their way back before the midway point to make things interesting.
From there, things were back and forth before Jeffrey Altidort put the home side ahead for good with under five minutes to play. Altidort’s three pointer with 4:53 left on the clock gave the Wildcats a 72-71 lead, and they wouldn’t trail the rest of the way.
Bethune-Cookman put an end to their four game losing streak with the six point win on their home court to ring in the New Year in proper fashion.
Junior forward Shawntrez Davis recorded his eighth double-double of the season, posting 17 points and 12 rebounds to go along with four blocks. David was 6-of-10 from the floor, and 4-of-7 from the free throw line.
Not to be outdone, Malik Maitland posted a double-double of his own, racking up 15 points and 11 assists. To make Maitland’s night even more impressive, he racked up 11 assists without committing a single turnover.
Brandon Tabb added 16 points and two rebounds, while Isaiah Bailey chipped in with 14 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
For the Bulldogs, James Richardson led all scorers on the night with 20 points, on 8-of-17 shooting. Damani Applewhite came off the bench to record 19 points and six rebounds, while leading scorer Donte Wright was limited to 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting from the floor in the loss.
Maitland opened the scoring with a layup plus a free throw just four seconds into the contest. The Wildcats opened on an 11-3 run in the first two minutes of the game, with a layup from Tabb capping the run at the 18:15 mark. Ozante Fields responded with a three point play of his own, and the Bulldogs rattled off a quick 8-0 run shortly thereafter to knot the game up at 14-all.
After the teams went back-and-forth for more than 10 minutes, the Bulldogs started to take control as the first half wound down. With 4:50 to play, Fields hit a jumper to spark a 14-5 run for the visitors that would take them into the break. Richardson accounted for five points in the run, and the Bulldogs led 47-37 after the opening frame.
The second half opened up much like the first half played out. Both teams went back-and-forth as Bethune-Cookman tried to cut into the lead of the Bulldogs. After Patrell Rogers hit a pair of free throws with 14:31 to play in the game to put South Carolina State ahead by 11, it was the Wildcats’ turn to go on a run to take control of the game.
Bailey responded with a layup following Rogers’ free throws, and it ignited a 13-0 run for the home side that spanned over five minutes. Soufiyane Diakite capped the run with a second-chance basket, and when all was said and done, the Wildcats held a 62-60 lead.
Back and forth the teams would go once again, trading the lead on a handful of occasions before the Wildcats would take control of the game once more.
Only this time, they took control for good.
Altidort hit a three pointer with 4:53 to play to put the Wildcats ahead by one, and he followed that up with a layup to give his team a 74-71 lead. Maitland added a three pointer of his own to stretch the lead to six with under three and a half minutes to play, and the rest of the game was merely a formality.
South Carolina State wasn’t able to fight their way back in the closing minutes, and Bethune-Cookman held down home court to the tune of an 86-80 victory.
With the win, Bethune-Cookman (6-9, 1-0) put an end to their four game losing streak. It was just their second win over their last eight games. The Wildcats will look to make it two straight wins on Saturday when they head on the road to take on the Howard Bison.
The loss was the third straight defeat for South Carolina State (4-12, 0-1). They will look to get back on track on Saturday when they close out a four game road trip with a contest against the Delaware State Hornets.
– T. Bennett