Second-half surge carries Wildcats to victory in HAAC tourney opener

Culver-Stockton College junior guard CJ Adams, here driving through Avila defenders Terry Fairlee, left, and Brandon Murillo, was tabbed the Heart of America Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. (H-W Photo/Michael Kipley)
Posted: Mar. 1, 2013 12:22 am Updated: Mar. 22, 2013 1:15 am

Herald-Whig Sports Writer

CANTON, Mo. -- Marshawn Norris came out of the locker room at halftime of Thursday's Heart of America Athletic Conference Tournament quarterfinal game looking quite stoic.

Seeing this, CJ Adams, who played high school basketball with Norris in Napoleon, Mich., knew what to expect from Norris the final 20 minutes.

"When he gets quiet, that's when he's going to start hooping," Adams said.

Norris' game did plenty of talking in the second half. Norris, the Culver-Stockton College men's basketball team's senior point guard, scored 20 of his game-high 22 points after halftime to help the second-seeded Wildcats beat No. 7 Avila 75-60 at Charles Field House.

Norris also tallied a game-high eight assists and four rebounds. Named the HAAC Player of the Year before the game Thursday, Norris finished 8 of 15 from the field after going 1 of 5 in the first half.

"The shots just started to fall," Norris said.

C-SC improved to 24-7 and set a new program high for single-season victories. The Wildcats, ranked No. 22 nationally, will play third-seeded MidAmerica Nazarene (23-8) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Charles Field House, where the Wildcats are 14-1 this season. MidAm Nazarene advanced by beating Baker 69-68 on Thursday. In two games against MidAm Nazarene, the Wildcats are 2-0. They won 89-88 at home on Jan. 19 and 101-92 on Feb. 23 on the road.

"It'll go up and down, and a lot of points will be scored," C-SC coach Jack Schrader said of Saturday's game.

Although Norris helped propel C-SC after halftime, the Wildcats needed their defense and Adams' offense to keep them close in the first half.

Adams, named the HAAC's Defensive Player of the Year, went 4 of 4 from the field in the first half to net eight points and make sure C-SC trailed only 29-23 at halftime.

"Our shots weren't falling, and I was open," said Adams, who finished with 10 points. "The guys have been on my case the whole season, telling me to shoot the ball because I'm open. So I just started shooting it."

Adams' teammates were glad he took an aggressive approach in the first half.

"CJ is our workhorse," said C-SC senior guard Austin Keaton, who scored 15 points. "He's a stat-sheet stuffer. He can shoot the ball. He'd just rather not. He'd rather just do all the little things -- rebound, get steals and run for us. But he can hit that mid-range jumper. We tell him all the time, ‘If you get that ball in the mid-range, you can knock that down for us.'"

The Wildcats went 10 of 29 (34.5 percent) from the field in the first half, including 2 of 13 from 3-point range.

They remained close by limiting Avila (10-19) to 12 of 34 (35.3 percent) from the field in the first half. For the game, Avila shot 32 percent.

"The first half, it was lucky we played some good defense because we couldn't buy a bucket," Keaton said.

Adams made a pair of free throws with 19 minutes, 14 seconds remaining in the second half to cut Avila's lead to 31-25. That's when his teammates got in on the act.

C-SC's live-by-the-three, die-by-the-three offensive approach paid off early in the second half.

They made 5 of 6 3-pointers -- including two by Norris and two by Alen Hadzimahovic -- in a span of just more than four minutes. C-SC took the lead for good when James Johnson, who scored 11 points, made the final trey of that flurry to put the Wildcats ahead 42-39 with 14:08 to play.

Sedrick Johnson's 19 points, and Brandon Redmond's 12 points and 10 rebounds weren't enough to prolong Avila's season.

"(Avila) came out here ready to win and prepared, and they probably caught some of our guys by surprise," Norris said. "We were coming out playing real relaxed. Second half, we were raring to go and wanted to get the win."




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