By BRYAN GIBBONS
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
CANTON, Mo. -- The Culver-Stockton College men's basketball team showed the Heart of America Athletic Conference exactly what it is capable of doing when everything is clicking.
The No. 23-ranked Wildcats dominated Graceland in every facet Thursday night, coming away with a 83-63 victory at Charles Field House to maintain second place in the HAAC standings.
First, C-SC had to overcome a tepid start.
"Early on, we just couldn't hit our shots," C-SC coach Jack Schrader said. "We kept grinding away and were able to break open the game with that late first half burst."
Calling it a burst might be an understatement.
Over the first game's first 12 minutes, the Wildcats (21-6, 12-3 HAAC) let the scrappy Yellowjackets (6-21, 3-13) hang around and the knot the score at 17.
Then Marshawn Norris and Co. turned up the heat and went on a defining run.
C-SC outscored Graceland 25-4 the final eight minutes of the half, using smothering defense that led to efficient offense. C-SC shot 7 of 9 from the field during the run, while preventing Graceland from making another basket.
All four of the Yellowjackets points during the run came from the free-throw line.
Mario Gulley and James Johnson joined Norris in leading the charge as they combined for 18 of the 25 points during the run. Norris led the team with 18 points overall, while Gulley and Johnson had 14 and 13, respectively.
When asked what the biggest factor in the run was, Norris was quick to credit the fans.
"We really struggled early, but we stuck with it," Norris said. "We were able to feed off the crowd and get back into our rhythm and get the offense rolling."
C-SC had been upset earlier in the season at Graceland, losing 80-69 at Lamoni, Iowa., and Schrader admitted it played a factor in this game.
"We lost to these guys earlier this year, and we started the game intense," Schrader said. "Once we finally settled down, they couldn't stop us."