The Baker Orange

Men drop fifth straight at Evangel

Story by Jim Joyner, Sports Editor

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The men’s basketball team lost its fifth straight game Saturday against the No.22 Evangel University Crusaders 68-62. This loss, coupled with a 73-63 home loss to the Avila University Eagles on Thursday, dropped the Wildcats’ record to 7-10 overall and 1-6 in the Heart of America Athletic Conference.

Avila

Sophomore Tyrome Parker rose to the challenge Thursday night. Parker was 7-13 from the field, 10-14 from the stripe, grabbed 4 boards and scored a career-high 27 points in 37 minutes on the floor. Parker tied his previous career high, 20, previously set against Graceland University in December of 2013.

The team’s leading scorer, point guard sophomore Javeion Gray, missed the previous two games due to a facial injury, but came into this game with a facial mask. Gray struggled early with the mask on, turning the basketball over three times, but he later took the mask off and kept Baker in the game by scoring seven points.

Baker never could quite gain control of the game due to Avila’s up-tempo defense and full-court pressure.

Baker was able to cut the lead to 65-59 with 1:58, but Avila converted from the free-throw line down the stretch and Baker had trouble getting to the rim. The Eagles shot 20-26 on free throw in the game and 13-14 in the second half.

Besides the solid performances of Parker and Gray, freshman Gregg Easter scored 12 points and made two baskets in the final minutes. Juniors Manny Barnes and Nick Wilson both had 5 and senior Jared Fulks had 4.

Avila would go on to win 73-63 and knock Baker down into the basement of the Heart of America Athletic Conference in last place.

The Wildcats were also down two players due to injury. The team’s second leading scorer, senior EJ Carter, and freshman Daniel Young did not play.

Evangel

On Saturday last place Baker was faced with a nearly impossible task in knocking off the first-place Evangel Crusaders in Springfield, Missouri. Evangel entered the game ranked 22nd nationally.

Once again Carter and Young did not travel but Gray mixed up his protective gear for his face.

Gray used the same type of glasses that former Kansas University center Joel Embiid and now Philadelphia 76er wore last season when he was at Kansas. With a more comfortable protection on his face, Gray played well.

Baker was not going to be threatened by the Crusader team that was averaging 92 points per game in its last three games. Baker came in with a mindset to slow Evangel down and did it. Both teams combined for 66 free throws and 44 fouls in the game.

Baker trailed for nearly the entire game, but managed to keep it close. Going into the intermission the score was 36-29, Avila.

Evangel had a major turnover problem in the first half, coughing the ball up 9 times compared to 7 for Baker. Evangel held the lead by shooting 46 percent from the field.

Baker stayed in the game behind two sophomores who had two of their best games of the season. Tyrome Parker scored in the twenties for the second consecutive game with 23 and Javeion Gray scored 18.

Parker was 7-16 from the field, 2-3 from three-point land, and 7-9 from the stripe in his 36 minutes. Gray was 3-6 from the field and 12-13 from the free throw line. The two kept Baker in its last two games.

The Wildcats scratched and clawed to stay in the game and cut the lead down to two points with 5:38 to play after Gray hit four straight free throws. Two were from a technical foul on freshman Jordan Clark and two from a foul. Baker trailed 60-58.

But the Crusaders were flawless from the free-throw line to close out the game. Baker had a few opportunities but did not capitalize and the relentless effort turned into a 68-62 loss, marking the team’s fifth straight loss.

Wilson was the only other Baker player to score more than two points, with 9. Six other Wildcats had 2 points in the game as the they shot 36 percent from the field and 30 percent from three.

The Wildcats will host the 9-8, 3-4 Peru State College Bobcats on Thursday at the Collins Center at 7:30 p.m. Then the team will travel to Marshall, Missouri, to take on the 11-6, 5-2 Missouri Valley College Vikings at 4 p.m.