PARKVILLE, Mo. – A season-best 33 points from Xavielle Brown and a red-hot shooting afternoon helped Park University to a statement win over No. 22 Freed-Hardeman Saturday at Breckon Sports Center, as the Pirates pulled in to second place in the American Midwest Conference with a 92-69 win over the Lions, who are now 11-4 in the AMC. The Pirates shot 60 percent from the floor, including 63 percent from outside the 3-point arc.
Park, now 12-4 in the AMC and 15-5 overall, held Freed-Hardeman to only 38.7-percent shooting in the game, well under the Lions' season mark of 43.7 percent, and in all, four Pirates were in double figures, including Zach Rutland, who had all 11 of his points in the first half and added 12 assists in the game, helping the Pirates build a 27-point halftime lead.
"The two things we did really talked about and executed were defending not just the three, but extending above that, and then not being complacent in the second half when we got up big," said Park coach Jason Kline. "They're extremely well coached, and they are a team that shoots the ball extremely well. To frustrate them early the way we did was really the key. This one is big."
BJ Watson was also a double-figure scorer for Park, with 13 points and eight assists, while Noel Surles finished with 14 on 6-of-8 shooting. The Lions, who fell to 16-8 overall, had three in double digits, including Spencer Garner and Fitzgerald Hopkins, who shared the team lead with 16 points.
Park had the game's first five points, getting an opening-possession triple from Ikem Eriobuna and a pair of foul shots a minute in from Surles. Brown added to the lead with free throws at the 15:38 mark in the first, up 13-7, and three-straight threes between Josh and Zach Rutland over the next three minutes had Park in front by 16, up 28-12 with less than 12 minutes before halftime.
Brown added two more triples near the 8:30 mark to make it 37-17, the Pirates' fourth and fifth makes from above the arc in the first half, the last two giving Brown 14 points just 12 minutes in to the game. Brown ended the half with 21, and Park added to its lead, taking a 27-point cushion to intermission, up 52-25.
Two possessions in to the second half saw two more baskets from Brown and a lead past 30 points, as the Pirates were in front 56-25 only a minute in to the second. The 9-0 run continued for nearly three minutes to begin the second half, and the Pirates were in front 61-25 on Surles' basket with 17:55 to go. The Pirates allowed the Lions to score the next four baskets, which cut the lead to 61-33 and caused Kline to stop play with a timeout, but out of the break, with 15:30 to go, Brown scored in the lane to stop the 8-0 FHU run, returning the Park lead to 30 points, 63-33.
On the Pirates' next possession, after a defensive stop, Watson drained a 3-pointer from the right wing to make it 66-33, and the Pirates stayed in command, leading by as many as 36 before Surles went to the bucket on consecutive possessions to give Park an 86-55 lead with five minutes to play.
"We had a really good week with three wins, and I'm not sure if we can play better than we did today, other than the free-throw line," Kline said. "But no one cares about a 3-0 week. They care about your next one, and those are two tough games ahead of us next week."
The Pirates are on the road for the first of two games next week, on Thursday at Missouri Baptist University, before returning home Saturday for the American Midwest Conference Game of the Week against William Woods at The Breck.
Thursday's game at MBU begins at 7:30 p.m., while Saturday's contest against Woods tips at 3 p.m., and both games will air on the Pirate Sports Network at www.parkathletics.tv.