Henderson, NV — It was an exciting afternoon and evening on Day One of the Ball Dawgs Classic at the Dollar Loan Center in Henderson, Nevada. The men’s field of the Ball Dawg Classic features the Indiana State Sycamores, the New Mexico Lobos, the Pepperdine Waves, the Rice Owls, the Toledo Rockets and the UC Irvine Anteaters.
Game One was between Indiana State and Rice. What seemed like it was going to be a close contest between the two teams quickly changed, as the Sycamores found their stroke from beyond the arc and turned a 19-18 Rice lead at the 11:57 mark to an Indiana State 33-21 lead with 7:01 to go in the first half. The Owls had no answer for junior guard Masen Miller, who came off the bench and hit five threes, helping his team end the half on a 37-16 run and end up resulting in a 103-88 victory.
Rice could not contain sophomore Indiana State center Robbie Avila either. Avila had 16 points, four rebounds and five assists with one block and one steal on 6-11 shooting (2-5 from 3 and 2-4 from the free throw line) at halftime and would finish the game with 27 points, eight rebounds, eight assists on 10-19 shooting (3-6 from 3 and 4-6 from the free throw line). Avila has continued his strong play from a season ago, when he earned a spot on the Missouri Valley Conference’s All-Freshman team.
Rice did a better job of rotating to the ball to prevent Indiana State from taking as many threes, but it didn’t seem to matter, as Miller’s hot shooting was passed onto his teammates – Indiana State hit 5-of-13 from distance in the second half and 16-of-34 for the game. Rice did put up 54 points in the second half and outrebounded the Sycamores 42-30 but Indiana State’s 48 points in the second half were too much to overcome. The Owls did shoot better and more often from distance in the second half (7-16) but could not stop the Sycamores’ hot shooting. Indiana State’s biggest lead was 23.
Sophomore guard Mekhi Mason and senior guard Travis Evee did what they could to keep their team in the game, but Mason picked up his fourth personal foul at 13:39 to go in the game, dealing a blow to the Owls’ offensive rhythm. Evee scored double-digits in both halves and would finish with a team high 25 points on 7-14 shooting, 2-5 from beyond the arc and perfect from the line (9-9) to go with four rebounds and one steal, but he would end up fouling out of the game. Freshman guard Camp Wagner only got seven minutes of playing time but made the most of them – scoring 11 points, including three three-pointers.
Avila was Indiana State’s leading scorer, but four other players finished in double figures, including two players from the bench – the aforementioned Miller and redshirt senior guard Xavier Bledson. Head coach Josch Schertz would empty the bench with 3:08 to go in the game and the Sycamores picked up their third win of the season, while the Owls lost their third in a row.
Both teams are back in action tomorrow in Day Two of the Ball Dawgs Classic. Indiana State will look to pick up another victory versus Pepperdine, while Rice will look to snap their losing streak against New Mexico.
Game Two saw the Pepperdine Waves take on the UC Irvine Anteaters in what was largely a back-and-forth affair. Neither team gave each other much ground until the Anteaters started to pull away during the latter part of the second half, winning 76-60. UC Irvine’s largest lead was 20, while Pepperdine’s was three.
UC Irvine’s leading scorer did not come from the starting unit, but rather the bench. Freshman guard Derin Saran poured in 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting with only one three-pointer made to pair with his eight rebounds and two assists. Saran’s eight rebounds also led the team. Senior guard Andre Henry helped out with 10 points, five rebounds and one assist, but had eight of his 10 points in the first half.
The Anteaters only had two players finish in double-digits, using an egalitarian approach on offense and letting the shots come to them. They were able to do so due to their dominance on the boards, outrebounding the Waves 43-29 (14 offensive). UC Irvine also more than doubled Pepperdine’s 3-point shooting, going 6-for-13 compared to Pepperdine’s 3-14. Every player on UC Irvine made at least one shot.
Junior guard/forward Michael Ajayi was Pepperdine’s leading scorer, but also their best player when he was on the floor. Ajayi pulled down 11 rebounds to record a double-double, by far the most of any Wave. No other player had more than five.
Junior starting guard Houston Mallette did a little bit of everything for the Waves, scoring 10 points and tallying two steals, two assists and one rebound. Redshirt freshman guard Cord Stansberry also contributed 12 points– nine from the floor and three from the free-throw line.
UC Irvine will look to add to the win column against the Toledo Rockets in Day Two of the Ball Dawgs Classic, while Pepperdine will try to start a new winning streak when they take on Indiana State.
Game 3, the final game of Day One, pitted the Toledo Rockets against the New Mexico Lobos, with the Lobos picking up a 92-84 victory. New Mexico improved to 3-1, while Toledo (3-1) suffered their first loss of the season,. The first half produced some interesting stats – both at the individual and team levels:
- New Mexico shot 51.4% from the floor, but did not make a single three-pointer (0-3)
- The Lobos outrebounded the Rockets 22-12 – 7-2 on the offensive end
- Toledo’s junior guard Ra’Heim Moss had more made free throws (4) than field goals (3)
Neither team had a lead larger than five points until New Mexico went on a 6-0 run to go up 42-32 at half. In the second half the Rockets’ offense soared, scoring 52 points, but New Mexico’s 46 points were enough to hold on for the win.
Freshman forward JT Toppin was nearing a double-double at halftime with 16 points and six rebounds. Toppin finished the game with 27 points and 11 rebounds and his presence was felt on both offense and on the boards.
In his second season with the Lobos, Jamal Mashburn Jr. (son of former NBA player Jamal Mashburn) was a large part of New Mexico’s offense, finishing with 27 points including a timely and-one with 2:46 remaining that helped the Lobos pull away for good.
Senior center Nelly Junior Joseph was all over the glass for New Mexico, gobbling up 10 rebounds – four of which were offensive, a game-high.
For Toledo, three players kept the Rockets in the game. Junior forward Andre Lorentsson came off the bench and made an instant impact, scoring 10 points (3/3 from three) and grabbing two rebounds in the first half. Lorentsson added seven points in the second half to conclude the game with 17. Ra’Heim Morris followed up his solid first half with a strong second half, scoring 12 of his 22 points to keep the Rockets within striking distance. Junior guard Dante Maddox was the catalyst for Toledo all night, finishing with a team-high 23 points, scoring clutch bucket after clutch bucket to keep the deficit small or retake the lead.
New Mexico plays Rice on Day 2 of the Ball Dawgs Classic. Toledo will face UC Irvine.