Prairie View hands Alcorn home loss to open SWAC

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 5, 2003

LORMAN &045; By the looks of it, Malachi Thurston likes those penthouse, high-rise apartments.

You know the ones where you have to go up 80 floors on the elevator to reach.

Thurston’s above-the-rim lifestyle gave Prairie View an ace up its sleeve Saturday in the Panthers 77-70 wire-to-wire victory over Alcorn.

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But it was his range from behind the 3-point arc that gave Prairie View its first win over the Braves in nearly six years. Up one with less than two minutes remaining, Thurston hit a huge trey to put the Panthers up four to seal it and forced Alcorn to foul down the stretch.

&uot;I was just trying to do what my coach tells me in practice each day,&uot; said Thurston, a junior college transfer from Oakland, Calif. &uot;When I get open like that I better knock down the shot. Anybody on this team could do that, and I’m just glad it was me.

&uot;My congratulations goes out to all my senior teammates who had never won (at Alcorn) before.&uot;

Thurston wasted little time in making his presence felt. An already loud and energized Prairie View bench tore the roof of the Davey L. Whitney Recreation Complex when Thurston scored the first two baskets of the game on ally oops from Gregory Burks.

Prairie View led 12-2 before the first five minutes were up, with Thurston accounting for six of those.

His 26 led all Panthers, but he was not the game’s leading scorer. Those honors went to Alcorn’s Lee Cook, who led three Braves in double figures with 28.

&uot;We tell our kids to establish themselves on the defensive end first and we did that,&uot; said Jerome Francis, the Panthers’ first-year head coach. &uot;(Alcorn) started slow, but they got back in it. I was proud of the way we handled the pressure.&uot;

Tori Harris’ second 3-pointer in a little more than two minutes cut what was once a 16-point Prairie View lead seven minutes earlier to eight, 63-55, with 7:22 remaining.

A Cook bucket inside 40 seconds later reduced the lead to six. The Braves shaved it to three and had a chance to tie it on another Harris long-distance trey with 4:15 to play, but his attempt drew iron.

Alcorn kept following its missed shots, though, on the same possession and Dion Callans’ tip off a short 3-pointer from Jason Cable was good and the Panthers’ lead was one, 64-63.

&uot;We made a bunch of mistakes that got us behind and we had to fight to the death to get back in it,&uot; Alcorn head coach Davey L. Whitney said. &uot;We ran out of gas in the last couple of minutes. We fought hard, but didn’t play very smart.&uot;

Up nine at the break, 37-28, the Panthers continued its pressure and consistent shooting to open the final 20 of play. Another Thurston oop with 15:57 to play gave Prairie View a 51-37 lead.

It grew a bucket more, 55-39, when Burks connected on a 3-point play two minutes later.

Burks finished the game with 15 points and took care of the rock for Francis and the Panthers with an eight-to-two assist-to-turnover ratio.

&uot;Prairie View has the best ball club I’ve seen from them in some years,&uot; Whitney said. &uot;(Francis) is doing a great job in his first year.&uot;

Everything from the tip for the Panthers was inside right at the teeth of the Alcorn defense, either sinking layups or drawing fouls to get to the line.

&uot;Early on we want our players to be the aggressors and take it right at the opponent,&uot; Francis said. &uot;We establish ourselves inside and make a statement of how we want the game to go.&uot;

Alcorn did a better job taking care of the ball than in previous outings, but still committed 16 turnovers &045; split evenly between halves.

&uot;That’s our biggest problem. We’re too risky and too careless with the ball,&uot; Whitney said. &uot;I’m sure we outrebounded them. We’ve done that the last five teams we’ve played, including Kentucky. We have to learn to take better care of the ball.&uot;

Prairie View held the Braves without a field goal for the first five minutes of the game.

Alcorn’s Steve Wallace ended the 0-for-10 performance at the 14:51 mark on a jumper, his only two points of the game.

The Braves chopped their way back into the game, getting as close as five before Thurston flew the friendly skies yet again for a dunk and a 28-21 Panthers’ lead with 5:17 to play. He had 15 points at intermission.

&uot;Coach has worked hard all summer and brought in some key recruits, me included,&uot; Thurston said. &uot;Practice is great. Most coaches yell and scream at you, but coach Francis teaches. He encourages us to correct the mistake.

&uot;I don’t want to speak too soon, but I can tell you for one thing Prairie View is nobody’s punk anymore.&uot;