BJ Watson's 16 points and 8-of-10 free-throw shooting helped Park to a 92-86 come-from-behind win over Lindenwood-Belleville.
PARKVILLE, Mo. - Xavielle Brown poured in a game-high 26 points and went 14-for-17 from the free throw line and 25th-ranked Park University held Lindenwood-Belleville without a field goal for the game's final 4:55, coming from behind to beat the Lynx at Breckon Sports Center, 92-86. The win improved Park to 6-2 in the American Midwest Conference (9-3 overall), moving the Pirates in to sole possession of second place in the league standings with a game next week at first-place Columbia.
"Lindenwood-Belleville is a very good team that took us out of a lot of things and made us settle for jumpers. But we made some plays when we had to and we were fortunate enough just to hang around," said Park coach Jason Kline. "We stuck together and it was a hard-fought game on both ends. A physical game. These were two good teams tonight. (Xavielle Brown) usually gets a positive result (when he gets the ball inside), and we needed every point he had."
Brown was joined in double figures by three more for Park, including BJ Watson's 16 points and 14 for both Zach Rutland and Noel Surles, while Lindenwood's J.T. Jones had 21 for the Lynx, scoring 17 in the first half and adding a double-double with 10 rebounds. In all, Lindenwood-Belleville (11-4, 5-3 AMC) put four in double figures and won the glass, out-rebounding Park 45-44.
The Pirates ultimately won the game at the foul line, going 36-for-44, while only allowing the Lynx 30 attempts and 19 makes at the stripe.
Brown had the Pirates in front early, 20-15, with a hard-fought basket in the paint over 7-footer Joey De La Rosa, and with 10:56 in the first, Surles coverted a Josh Rutland steal with a nifty move in the paint to finish, giving Park a 26-20 lead. A 6-2 Lindenwood run tied the game at 28 when Chris Deanes sailed in a pair of foul shots with 9:09 in the half, but Park had its lead back to six points two more times, the last at the 5:30 mark in the half when Surles struck again to make it 38-32.
Lindenwood-Belleville covered the next minute with a fast 7-0 run and led 39-38 on a three-point play by TJ Jackson, who set the play up with his own steal before a hard dunk over Surles with 4:24 to go. Watson later scored in the paint to tie the game at 40 off of a rebound by Brown, but the Lynx raced ahead again, building a six-point lead of their own when De La Rosa scored in the paint after an offensive foul on Ikem Eriobuna, giving the Lynx a 48-42 lead with 2:03 before halftime. Ultimately, the Lynx went to the locker room up 53-48 at intermission, and their lead grew to seven with the first basket in the second half, a Deans bucket off of a David Shepard steal to make it 55-48. Park scored the next seven points and tied the game at 55 on a pair by Brown, but Lindenwood was able to lead by as many as nine, in front 82-73 on De La Rosa's basket with 4:55 to play.
De La Rosa's bucket was the last Lindenwood field goal of the game, and the Lynx were only able to manage four points in the final 4:55, all from the foul line. Meanwhile, Watson scored four-straight at the foul line between 3:54 and 3:20, getting the Pirates back within four, 83-79. Rutland was able to score less than a minute later, in the paint at only 5-foot-7, and after a free throw from Sean McGee put the Lynx up 84-81, the Pirates scored the next four points from the free-throw line, by Rutland and Brown, to take an 85-84 lead with 1:15 to go. Mitchell went on to hit two more foul shots with 33.7 seconds left to put Park up 87-84, but no one saw what was on the game's horizon, 17 seconds after Mitchell's throws that made it a full one-possession game.
Rutland was dribbling down the left side of the floor, away from the scorer's table and in front of the bleachers near the Park locker room when he took a forearm from McGee, a flagrant foul with 16.9 seconds to play, causing players to come off of both benches. Mitchell (Park) and Jackson (L-B) were also given flagrant fouls, and Dalton Rose, who left the bench, was sent to the locker room. Two of the three flagrant fouls were sent to the locker room, and after the chaos cleared, Rutland made two more free throws to give Park an 89-84 lead after nearly 20 minutes off the court, as officials checked replay on the courtside monitor.
"I think it was two very competitive teams at the end of a tight game. Neither team wants to lose and the mindset of both teams' kids is to battle to the end," Kline said. "Both teams need to learn from the situation. I thought both teams kept their composure for most of the game, for as physical as the game was."
Brown later made one more free throw to give the Pirates a six-point lead, a critical point since Lindenwood-Belleville hit two free throws on its end, cutting the Park lead to four, Brown later sealed the game by making two more, with eight seconds to play, claiming a come-from-behind win to put the Pirates all alone in second place in the AMC.
The Pirates are now two full games behind their next opponent, No. 6 Columbia College (16-1, 9-0), after the Cougars escaped Saturday with a win at Williams Baptist College. Losses Saturday by William Woods, Central Baptist and Lindenwood-Belleville moved the Pirates in to second place, with next week's game at Columbia set for 7:30 p.m., Thursday night, on the Pirate Sports Network at www.parkathletics.com.