BELLEVILLE, Ill. — The No. 2 seed in next month's American Midwest Conference Men's Basketball Tournament is in hand and a shot at the AMC regular-season title is still alive, after No. 23 Park University turned in a dominant 80-57 win over Lindenwood-Belleville, Saturday, getting 30 points from BJ Watson to lead four double-digit scorers at the Lynx Arena in Belleville, Illinois.
Park (19-5, 16-4 AMC) is now two games back of Columbia College after its eighth-straight win, with two games to play, including a game with the third-ranked Cougars Thursday night at Breckon Sports Center in Parkville, at 7:30 p.m. Columbia was upset Saturday by Williams Baptist College, keeping the Pirates' chance at a league title intact.
"We can't really think about that right now," said Park coach Jason Kline. "Our task is figuring out ways to be successful against a very good Columbia team, right now. We are playing some very good basketball, right now, and I thought we really made strides today against a good Lindenwood-Belleville team."
Watson helped his 30-point cause with 13-of-14 at the foul line, while Noel Surles added 15 off the bench, Levi Mitchell scored 14, and Xavielle Brown scored 13, including 9-of-11 at the foul line, where Park was 26-for-33 on the day. David Shepard led Lindenwood-Belleville (14-14, 7-12) with a double-double, scoring 14 points with a game-high 14 rebounds.
Park was able to win the game on the turnover battle, forcing the Lynx to give the ball up 19 times, while holding Lindenwood-Belleville to 31 percent from the floor on 18-of-57 shooting.
For a third-straight game, the Pirates didn't trail, but both teams struggled on offense, as Park led 26-18 at intermission after beginning the game on a 7-2 run.
Park used an 11-5 run to go in front 37-23 with 16:17 to play, on a 3-pointer from Mitchell. Surles had the Pirates up by 15 with 14 minutes to go, scoring in the paint to make it 45-30, and Lindenwood-Belleville only got the game in to single digits one more time, at the 9:56 mark, when Sean McGee scored to make it 49-40.
The Pirates' lead swelled to 20 inside the 2:00 mark and reached as many as 24, when Watson drained two free throws with 1:09 on the clock. The win is Park's third-straight by double figures and marked the eighth-straight win for the Pirates, who play at home twice next week.
After Thursday's game with Columbia, Park hosts Hannibal-LaGrange University Saturday, at 3 p.m., for Senior Day at The Breck. Both games will air on the Pirate Sports Network at www.parkathletics.tv.