CONWAY, Ark. – Park University nearly completely erased a 17-point halftime deficit and was within a basket with 4.4 seconds to play, but the Pirates' come-from-behind effort fell short at Central Baptist College in an 82-78 loss to the Mustangs, Thursday, at A.R. Reddin Fieldhouse in Conway, Arkansas.
BJ Watson picked the Mustangs' pocket with time running out on the game, down 80-76, missing a 3-pointer that was put back by Noel Surles to cut the Central Baptist lead to 80-78. A foul on Zach Rutland followed and put Jayln McBride at the line, which was where the road ended for the Pirates, as McBride sank both throws with 4.4 to play.
Rutland led the Pirates with 17 points, and three more Pirates joined in double-digits – 14 from Watson and 13 for Xavielle Brown, who made the late basket that had Park within four in the final 30 seconds. Surles also added double digits, scoring 11. What Park couldn't survive was two 20-point scorers for Central Baptist (13-6, 8-5 AMC), including McBride's 22 points and a game-high 24 for Marcellous Green. The Pirates (11-5, 8-4 AMC) were also out-manned on the glass, giving up 35 rebounds to CBC while collecting only 23.
"They just out-physicalled us tonight," said Park coach Jason Kline, whose team still sits in third place in the American Midwest Conference. "We did some good things to get back in it, but on the road, you can't fall behind like we did and expect anything good to happen on the scoreboard. Lyon will be tough on Saturday, too, so we have to forget this one fast."
Park didn't truly ignite its run until only 4:00 remained in the game, when Rutland hit a 3-pointer to cut an 12-point CBC lead to single digits, 71-62, with 3:53 to play. Park stopped CBC on its next possession and Watson hit another three to get within two possessions, with 3:10 left.
After CBC was able to get back in front by eight, Brown scored with 2:00 left to make it 77-71, and a minute later, he struck again from inside the lane to make it 77-73. Both teams made single free throws on their next possessions, but Surles' basket on Park's final look was as close as CBC would allow, two points, as the Mustangs led for good after the 17:12 mark in the first half.
The Mustangs' 17-point halftime lead was CBC's largest of the first half, and in the second, Central Baptist was in front by as many as 18. Central Baptist also frustrated Brown, Park's leading scorer coming in to the game, holding last season's All-American to only six points at the break.
CBC was better than 50 percent from the floor in the first half, and the Mustangs made all 10 of their 3-pointers in the game's first 20 minutes. Park made 12 from beyond the arc, but a cold-shooting first half led to only 41.5 percent in the game.
Brown led Park on the glass, collecting seven rebounds.
The Pirates will stay in Arkansas to play Saturday, at Lyon College, tipping off at approximately 3 p.m., in Batesville on the Pirate Sports Network at www.parkathletics.tv.