G-Men sends Alcorn tumbling to 1-3 start

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 31, 2004

LORMAN &045; There was never any panic. No hyperventilating or hysteria.

Grambling’s offense in the second half came down, got set in its offense, worked the ball around until a seam magically opened.

Shooting nearly 74 percent in the final 20 minutes, the Tigers came back from a seven-point deficit and cruised to a 75-61 Southwestern Athletic Conference victory on Monday.

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&uot;We talked about getting the ball in the hands of players who can make the plays,&uot; Grambling head coach Larry Wright said. &uot;Don’t be afraid to make the extra pass. We played as a team in the second half.&uot;

Time and time again Grambling (4-10, 2-2) got the ball to its point guard, Maurice Searight, who set up his teammates with dribble-drive penetration into the lane.

Like a director, Searight got his supporting cast into their positions on the court, worked his defender into the lane and waited for the defense to collapse on him in order for him to kick it to either wing or down low on the block.

Finishing with four assists, Searight got top scorers Brion Rush and Paul Haynes, along with Vidalia’s own Ron Ellis involved on the barrage.

&uot;(Searight is) the best point guard in the SWAC. Anybody can tell you that,&uot; said Ellis, who finished with 12 points. &uot;He doesn’t mind not shooting. He’d rather pass before he shot it.&uot;

The outcome was a slap in the face to first-year Braves head coach Sam West, who watched his team stray from its typical behavior in forcing shots.

The dagger came at the 16:05 mark of the second half when Ellis swished a jumper after Alcorn (2-9, 1-3) missed a golden opportunity on its end.

The Ellis bucket gave the Tigers a 45-44 lead of which they never surrendered.

&uot;We had double digits in assists in the first half. We played very disciplined,&uot; West said. &uot;And then we went four or five minutes in the second half out of character. And when the other team is still playing solid, that’s what happens.&uot;

The Braves were also stung by the off-shooting night of senior and top scorer Brian Jackson, who was 3 for 11, including three trips down the floor around the eight-minute mark where he clanged 3-point attempts off the back iron.

&uot;Not rebounding, not playing good defense, taking ill-advised shots &045; whatever you want to call it,&uot; West said of his forward’s dismal performance. &uot;We play well when we run our offense. That goes back to the leadership and buying into the system. It’s just taking longer than I expected.&uot;

Grambling pushed its lead out to eight, 54-46, when Ellis canned a trey as the shot clock buzzer sounded. After a pair of free throws from Alcorn’s Trey Johnson, who led the Braves with 18 points, Rush connected on a 3-pointer for a 57-48 advantage with 10:49 left.

Rush finished with a game-high 22 points, while also sharing the wealth with seven assists.

&uot;Grambling did a good job. They put their four guards on the court, and we thought we could match them with our four guards,&uot; West said. &uot;They milked the (shot) clock down to five seconds every possession, and they were doing that with eight minutes left. It worked to perfection.&uot;

The win was fulfilling to Ellis for many reasons, perhaps the greatest of which was shining brightly against the school that tried to court him while a senior at Vidalia High School.

&uot;I didn’t want to have a bad game against the school who said I should come here instead of Grambling,&uot; he said. &uot;We showed some Grambling pride tonight. That’s the way we’re supposed to play.&uot;

The Braves biggest lead of the night was eight, 29-21, when Johnson hit his only 3-point attempt of the night with 6:05 before the break.

Alcorn watched its lead disintegrate in the next 5 1/2, only to get a tough leaner from Johnson as time expired to carry a 33-32 advantage into the locker room.

The Braves shot 48. 3 percent in the first compared to their 33.3 output in the second.

&uot;I felt like we were playing well in the first half, but Alcorn was playing well too,&uot; Wright said. &uot;I felt like we executed better on both ends of the court in the second half.&uot;