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Defense keys Bishops' comeback win

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By SAMUEL EVERS
Sports Writer

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

After 10 minutes of play on Wednesday, N.C. Wesleyan had scored four points, made one field goal, committed seven turnovers and missed all nine of its three-point shots, adding up to a 10-point deficit at home against William Peace.

It was, to borrow a phrase from coach John Thompson’s vocabulary book, “Possibly the worst 10 minutes in Wesleyan basketball history.”

But by Thompson’s logic, there was no place to go but up, and it did get better.

Much better.

The Bishops (9-8, 7-3 USA South) fought out of their funk in the first half, using the next 10 minutes to regain both their energy and the lead. Then, when the second half started, the team defense -- namely, its press -- popped, and NCWC rattled off 52 second half points and 81 in the final 30 minutes for an 85-70 win.

In all, the Bishops forced 26 turnovers, turning those into 37 points.

“Coach did a really good job at halftime of not pointing fingers. He came in and said, ‘Hey we’re still in the game,” said Adrian Moore, who scored a game-high 21 points on 9 of 13 shooting, adding 10 rebounds and four assists.

To begin the second half, the Bishops went on a quick 10-2 run in three minutes, capped by a dunk from Robert Wilson. The catalyst was a defensive press and a purpose and energy that seemed impossible during that early swoon.

“Our full court trap, to see it pay off the way it did -- Peace is a good team, but we saw their guards were having trouble bringing the ball up,” Moore said. “Coach made the call to use our full court press, we did a good job of pressuring, getting the ball back.”

Moore was the second half hero, scoring 16 of his total after the break, but it was reserve Ricardo Bullock who came in during the Bishops’ drought and helped manufacture energy. He finished with 13 points in only 12 minutes.

“It was next man up when we were down. I had to bring the energy off the bench,” he said. “I don’t think our energy was there but we had to get over the hump. We played great defense later on.”

It didn’t take Thompson long to notice the lethargic nature of his team’s start. To try and break the bad play, he shuffled lineups throughout the half, settling on Bullock when he proved to be a spark.

“I don’t know why we were that way to begin, but I know that our attitude was good, our bench was good. We kept fighting and we just found a way to manufacture some things,” Thompson said. “Ricardo really gave us some great minutes. He was probably the one guy who was the catalyst.”

Improbably, the Bishops entered the half with a three-point lead, despite shooting just 9 of 31 from the field. The free throw line kept them afloat (10-12 for NCWC, no attempts for WP) and a better basketball product in the second half turned the game into a blowout.

“Somehow we came running in here with a lead at the half,” Thomson said. “Not sure how we got there. We came out and made some adjustments. Our defense keyed the whole thing. Once a few shots went in, it helped a few more go in.”

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