Nicholas Robinson, Director of Sports Information
SILOAM SPRINGS – On an afternoon when the offense struggled, junior Kiree Hutchings poured in a career-high 22 points and the Golden Eagles achieved a new modern-era single season record inside Bill George Arena as the No. 9 John Brown University men’s basketball team overcame a huge deficit to extend its winning streak to six with a 72-60 win over Wayland Baptist (Texas) on Saturday afternoon (Feb. 22) inside Bill George Arena.
For the first time in the modern era of John Brown men’s basketball, which kicked off back in 1958, the Golden Eagles (25-3, 16-2 Sooner Athletic) closed out a perfect regular season inside Bill George Arena at 16-0. JBU will have one more game remaining, March 3rd evening, when JBU hosts a Sooner Athletic tournament quarterfinal matchup.
The afternoon started out with promise after senior Dwayne Hart’s opening-possession rejection of the league’s leading scorer, J.J. Culver, which brought the home crowd to a standing ovation for the injury-plagued forward. After that, however, things looked grim.
Suffering through an offensive drought that lasted the first 9:10 of the contest, the Golden Eagles were without a field goal, starting the game 0-of-8 with four turnovers. Then, Hutchings hit his first triple of the ballgame, and the momentum shifted.
Down 16-2, the Hutchings triple jumpstarted a 26-0 John Brown rally that featured a Pioneer scoreless drought of 10:36 that swung the momentum well back in the hosts’ favor. Three Hutchings triples and a pair of buckets down low from freshman Nemanja Obradovic fueled the Golden Eagle rally that really lasted through the remainder of the half, bolstering JBU to a 31-18 lead at the intermission.
“Great way to start the game with Dwayne’s emphatic block, but I think we got a little shell-shocked thinking that meant we would win the game,” head coach Jason Beschta admitted after John Brown’s season sweep of Wayland. “Thankfully, we got back to being who we are. I think we had 21 stops on 22 possessions down the stretch in the first half. To see Kiree come out, play more minutes than he ever has, knock down shots with confidence from way back was great to see from a senior out there.
“In this league, you can’t let other teams get points in transition, you have to make it a half-court game. We feel like we can really guard people in the halfcourt, and I think we showed that.”
The halftime deficit for Wayland would hold as the teams battled to an even second half. The nation’s third-best free-throw shooting squad converted 19-of-21 from the charity stripe and kept pace with the visitors. While WBU attempted 12 more field goals, and converted at a 52 percent clip, the John Brown free throw shooting along with 10 Wayland miscues kept the perfect record at home in tact for the Golden Eagles.
Coupled with Central Christian’s upset of No. 13 Southwestern A.G. this afternoon, John Brown is guaranteed at least the No. 2 seed in the Sooner Athletic tournament. JBU remains one game back of No. 2 Mid-America Christian after the Evangels’ narrow victory over Southwestern Christian this afternoon.
Hutchings finished the contest with a career-high 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting and a 5-of-7 effort from behind the arc. Sophomore Luke Harper added 11, while junior Densier Carnes contributed seven points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
Culver paced the Wayland Baptist scoring effort with 18 points, but was limited on 7-of-18 shooting from the floor and committed a game-high seven turnovers. Jack Nobles added 10 in the Pioneer loss which snapped Wayland’s four-game winning streak.
John Brown finished the contest 28-of-32 from the line and hit eight triples en route to shooting 44 percent (18-of-41) from the field. While Wayland shot well in the second half, the last 10 minutes of the first half plagued the visitors, which finished 39 percent from the floor (23-of-59). The Pioneers were held to 21 points fewer than its season average (81.1).
JBU will now close out the regular season on a two-game road trip to Dallas-Ft. Worth. The Golden Eagles will take on No. 23 Texas Wesleyan on Thursday night before taking on No. 13 SAGU in Waxahachie on Saturday afternoon (Feb. 29) in the regular season finale.