STORRS, Conn. – Senior forward Lamontray Harris posted his ninth career double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds, while senior guard A.J. Hicks dished off a career best nine assists as the Morehead State men’s basketball team battled Connecticut for the entire 40 minutes before falling 80-70 at a sold-out Gampel Pavilion Thursday in a 2K Empire Classic game.
The Eagles trailed by as many as 13 in the first half but cut the game to four at the break (37-33) and fell behind by 16 in the final half but kept battling, cutting it to less than 10 in the waning moments. The Eagles slipped to 1-1.
“I knew we could come in and compete, but our goals were could we come in and play Morehead State basketball and not let their defensive pressure or the crowd or whatever factors were against us not take us away from our game. We did that,” said head coach Preston Spradlin. “We got better tonight. I was really proud of my guys.”
Harris canned 6-of-8 shots and grabbed nine defensive rebounds in 28 minutes. Hicks was held without a made field goal but had the career-best day in distributing the ball.
“I was most proud of Lamontray because there with about 20 or 30 seconds left he was still diving on the floor after a loose ball,” said Spradlin. “At that point, we weren’t going to win but he didn’t care what the score was, he just wanted to play hard until the end.”
Besides Harris, the Eagles had four others reach double-figures in the point column. Sophomore forward Malek Green chipped in 14, while junior guard Jordan Walkershrugged off foul trouble and still scored 13. Sophomore guard De’von Cooper drilled a trifecta of triples and scored 11, while sophomore forward James Baker came off the bench for 10 – tying his career high – with just his second career double-figure performance.
The Eagles also won the stat battle for points off turnovers (18-13) and second-chance points (13-11).
The Huskies, whose front line stood 6-8, 6-9, and 6-10, only out-rebounded the Eagles 41-36.
After shooting only shooting 27 percent in the opening 10 minutes, the Eagles finished the night at 40 percent (25-of-62) and canned nine three-pointers.
Josh Carlton ended with a 17-point, eight-rebound effort for the host team.
The Eagles continue play in the 2K Classic on Saturday at Syracuse. Game time is 7 p.m. ET.