West Texas A&M guard JoJo Murray drives the lane during the Buffs Lone Star Conference game against Lubbock Christian on Saturday at the First United Bank Center. [Tom Carver/ Press Pass Sports]West Texas A&M loses at the First United Bank Center about as often as a world pandemic and artic chill hits the Texas Panhandle.
Well, you know what kind of year 2021 has already been.
Lubbock Christian, lighting it up from the floor and free throw line, claimed the 2020-21 Lone Star Conference men’s regular season championship Saturday afternoon by handing WT its second home loss in 51 games.
LCU put a damper on WT’s JoJo Murray career night by shooting 62 percent from the floor led by Lloyd Daniels and Parker Hicks, then added on to those numbers canning 32-of-35 free throws on the way to downing West Texas 103-85 before 1,000 fans in the FUB.
The victory pushes LCU to 17-1 overall and in this crazy COVID year of cancelled conference games where nobody played the same amount of time the Chaps win the LSC at 15-1.
West Texas A&M, ranked No. 2 in the nation, drops to 12-2 overall and will be the No. 2 seed in this week’s LSC Tournament at 10-2.
Saturday’s game was playoff-like intense, much of the feisty play spilling over from Thursday’s game in Lubbock where WT handed LCU an 82-78 loss setting up Saturday’s win and you claim the LSC title.
LCU won by going on an 11-2 run to end the first half building a 52-41 lead, then saw Hicks put the dagger in WT in the form of back-to-back three pointers in the second half turning an iffy five-point lead into a hefty 11-point margin.
Hicks, a transfer from Texas Tech, made the second three with 7:36 remaining putting LCU ahead 76-65.
As close as WT would get the final 9:36 was nine points.
Senior Lloyd Daniels and Hicks led the way for LCU combining for 57 points.
Daniels scored a team-high 26 points and was incredibly efficient making 12 of 14 from the floor and 4-of-4 from the line.
Hicks scored 26 and added a game-high 11 rebounds while canning all 10 free throws he attempted.
West Texas certainly played well at times and saw its two All-American guards – Murray and Qua Grant – going toe-to-toe with LCU.
The 5-11 Murray, time and again finding his way to the basket, scored a career-high 37 points on 15-of-25 shooting.
Grant added 22 points and chipped in a team-high 10 rebounds for the double-double.
Grant made free throws with just more than seven minutes to play in the first half giving WT its last lead at 29-27.
LCU’s ability to knock down shots and feast at the free throw line was a gut punch to West Texas A&M.
LCU shot 30-of-48 from the floor (62.5 percent) and was 32-of-35 from the line (91.4 percent).
Four LCU players didn’t miss at the line in senior Parker Hicks (10 of 10), sophomore Ty Caswell (6 of 6), senior Lloyd Daniels (4 of 4) and sophomore Cameron Copley (2 of 2).
What They Said
West Texas coach Tom Brown:
“They do a good job of taking care of the basketball and spread you out. They really did a nice job with their offense tonight. We got it within five in the second half and then they went bang, bang with back-to-back threes to go up 11. That was big.”
LCU coach Todd Duncan:
“It’s hard to know (the difference between Saturday and Thursday night’s 82-78 loss to WT). I thought we made a few more shots. I thought did maybe a better job in transition. But those guys are so good. You look up and what (JoJo) Murray has fortysomething it seems like. … I was proud had we bounced back. Losing at home on Thursday night and have the resolve to kind of hi the reset and still have the belief to turn the corner and be in the conversation for this conference title.”
LCU junior guard Cameron Copley, who starred at Canadian High and scored the Chaps 100th point on a free throw:
“We thought for the most part they played a lot harder than we did at our place (Thursday night). That’s one thing we can’t let happen. This was for a conference championship and we knew we had to come out and match or exceed their effort. And then we were able to hit big timely shots and get a lead and hold it.”
West Texas will host a Lone Star Conference quarterfinal game Tuesday at the First United Bank Center.
Note: Because the LCU women will host the LSC Women’s Tournament Friday and Saturday, despite being the No. 2 seed WT will host the LSC Men’s Tournament.