Despite Gray’s career night, men lose second game in conference play

Story by Jim Joyner, Sports Editor

The Baker University men’s basketball team is off to an 0-2 start in Heart of America Athletic Conference play after losing to Central Methodist 79-72 on Wednesday night in Fayette, Missouri. The Wildcats have now lost six straight games to CMU and three straight in Fayette.

Baker senior Javeion Gray set a new career high with 33 points and was the team’s first 30-point scorer since EJ Carter scored 31 against Saint Mary on Nov. 7, 2013. Gray’s 33 points are the most scored in a single game for a Baker player since DJ Watkins scored 33 points against Haskell on Feb. 18, 2004.

The task for Baker was to slow down Central Methodist’s best player, Ron Lee. Lee came into the game scoring 29 points per game, which ranked No. 2 in the NAIA. Lee scored 40 points in CMU’s 128-110 loss to No. 3 William Penn in the conference opener. Lee averaged 25 points per game against Baker last season. Against Baker, Lee was held to 19 points, but his surrounding cast helped down the Wildcats.

After scoring only two points in Baker’s loss at Clarke, Gray opened the game with 13 points in the first six minutes, with three 3-pointers. Both teams started the game hot and Baker led 23-17 through the first 10 minutes.

Central Methodist took a 26-23 lead with 5:54 to go in the first half, thanks to an 8-0 run and sharp shooting from Bo Burkhart and Scott Stegeman. CMU expanded its lead to eight points by knocking down a 3-pointer with 1:48 to play in the first half and the Eagles had a 36-28 lead.

Junior Nate Guscott made a long 3-pointer as time expired in the first half, and Baker trailed CMU 36-32 at the break. Gray led Baker with 13 points through the first 20 minutes of the game.

Baker made its first four shots of the second half and opened on a 9-0 run in the first three minutes. CMU responded and regained the lead 45-43 with 14:56 to play in the game. Both teams exchanged runs and with 8:30 to play, the Wildcats led CMU 57-56. Senior Taylor Johnson made a corner 3-pointer and senior Tyrome Parker made two shots at the rim to put Baker back on top.

CMU maintained a lead throughout the final stretch of Wednesday’s game, however. The Eagles held on for the final four minutes, drained the clock and made free throws. The Eagles sealed their win by taking a 75-64 lead with 1:15 left in the game.

Central Methodist held on for its sixth-straight win over the Wildcats, dating back to the 2013-14 season. Baker dropped to 2-3, 0-2 on the season.

Outside of Gray, no other Wildcats scored in double digits, but Johnson finished with nine points. Sophomore Clae Martin, junior CJ Bolton and Parker each finished with six points. Baker shot 43 percent from 3-point territory (9-21) and 47 percent from the field.

CMU’s Brian Egejuru, who was averaging 22 points per game, scored only 10 off the bench. Burkhart finished tied with Lee with 19 points on 4-for-5 from 3-point range.

The Wildcats will play their first home game of the season on Saturday against the No. 3 William Penn Statesmen. WPU is 4-0 overall and 2-0 in conference play. The Statesmen have scored at least 103 points in the last three games, including 128 points against Central Methodist.