Alcorn gets tip-in from Howard with four seconds left to put away SU

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 2, 2003

BATON ROUGE &045; Alcorn head coach Davey Whitney loves playing cards.

When he’s on a good run, the only way he knows how to play is to play the &uot;hell out of them.&uot;

The deck was certainly stacked against a Brave team that began Southwestern Athletic Conference play 0-4 to start the season. But, Alcorn didn’t fold and cash in its chips.

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Even when things looked meager Saturday in Seymour Gym, Whitney’s Braves (12-16, 10-6 SWAC) found a way to pull out a 63-62 win and move into third place in the SWAC standings &045; a half game up on Texas Southern and Alabama State.

&uot;This is the hardest-working group of players I may have ever had,&uot; said Whitney, in his 27th and final year with Alcorn. &uot;They’ve never quit all year long. Even when we’ve been down, they’ve always fought hard. When things get bad, they still believe they can win.&uot;

Alcorn got a third-chance tip-in from Myles Howard, who finished with 13 points, with four seconds left to take the season sweep from the Jaguars and hand Southern (8-17, 5-11) its first defeat in four outings.

Brian Jackson, who tied for a game-high 18 points with Southern’s Jerrid Campbell, drove the baseline as time ticked off, put up an awkward jumper that clanged off the backboard and into the hands of Dion Callans, who missed the follow-up, only to see teammate Howard make good.

It was a bittersweet ‘W’ for Whitney, who saw red due to the 53.1 percent the Braves shot from the charity stripe Saturday. Since, Alcorn stumbled out the gates it has won 10 of 12 conference games and shot better than 70 percent collectively in that span.

&uot;I didn’t think we played well tonight. It was the worst free throw shooting I’ve seen all year,&uot; Whitney said. &uot;We would’ve played with the lead earlier in the ball game if it hadn’t been for that. But there’s no such thing as a bad win and the ending was good.&uot;

From the 4:55 mark to 1:39 left in the game, Alcorn was 4 of 11 from the charity stripe. Instead of assuming control of the game at the free throw line, the Braves were left with no other option but to flex their muscle on the floor.

Callans, who finished with 13, put in a bucket with 1:08 left for a 59-58 lead, and the 15th lead change of the game.

Southern’s Victor Tarver responded with a deuce but Jackson staked Alcorn back on top with 34 seconds on two free throws.

A Tim Johnson outlet, inbounds pass to Jarvis Vaughn the full-length of the court put the Jags back up by 62-61, before Howard’s heroics.

&uot;I can’t say we didn’t work hard, but we made some mental mistakes at the end,&uot; Southern head coach Ben Jobe said. &uot;We didn’t block out like we should’ve and the game shouldn’t have come down to that last point.

&uot;We had chances to maintain significant leads and our defense broke down. (Alcorn) simply wanted more than we did.&uot;

The Braves scored the first two buckets to open the second half to take their third lead of the game, but just their first since they led 4-3 with 17:50 left in the first half. Alcorn’s 2-0 lead to open things was its largest lead of the night.

A Callans’ jumper off Alcorn’s ninth assist of the game put the Braves up a point, 30-29, with exactly 18 minutes to go.

From there, neither team wrestled control of the game for the first nine minutes of the second half during a stretch of 10 lead changes, including seven straight on successive offensive possessions.

Then in less than a one-minute-and-a-half span Johnson spotted up twice beyond the 3-point arc and buried both of his looks. On the Jaguars next possession down the floor, Johnson, who finished with 16 points, put Callans on his hip, spun and hit the bottom of the net to put his team up 49-41 with 9:17 left.

&uot;It’s the nature of our club to build leads and give them right back to the other team,&uot; Jobe said. &uot;I don’t know what it is, but in the second half we don’t work as hard.&uot;

After giving up the game’s first bucket 13 seconds into the contest the Jaguars used a 14-2 run to jump out ahead of Alcorn.