HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Through 37 minutes, Faulkner head coach Jim Sanderson thought it was his team's worst performance of the season. The last three minutes, however, were Duke-like as the Eagles erased a 13-point lead in the final 2:53 to shock William Carey 61-60 here Thursday night in a Southern States Athletic Conference West Division battle at Clinton Gymnansium.
The game-winner came from sophomore guard Jake Mitchell, whose 12-footer with 1.2 seconds left lifted the Eagles to a most improbable victory. Faulkner had made two of its 16 3-point attempts until the wild and crazy finish, when Mitchell, Jamarious Alderson and Duke Phillips combined to hit four of five in a 22-8 game-ending stretch. After Mitchell's game-winner, William Carey's Roderick Little had his desperation half-court heave fall harmlessly away, setting off a player pileup of Eagles in celebration.
"What a turnaround at the end, and that's what can happen in college basketball," Faulkner head coach Jim Sanderson said. "You play for 40 minutes regardless of the situation because you never know what will happen. We were really bad for most of this game, but for three minutes our guys were not going to be denied. I'm very proud of them for finding a way to win it."
Faulkner was shooting below 30 percent for most of the game, and had trailed since the opening minute of the game. The Crusaders missed four free throws in the closing minutes and the Eagles forced four turnovers, including a five-second violation after a Palmore putback brought the Eagles to within 59-57 with 20 seconds left. Adam Okechukwu tied it off the inbounds play, but a foul on Palmore with 17 seconds left sent Little to the line for two free throws. After making the first, he missed the second, setting the stage for the frantic finish.
Mitchell was the only Faulkner player in double figures, finishing with 14 points. Palmore added nine points, while Okechukwu and Decorey Jones chipped in eight apiece. Faulkner (12-11 overall, 5-8 SSAC) ended the game at 36 percent from the field, while William Carey (10-15 overall, 6-8 SSAC) made 44 percent of its attempts. Little led the Crusaders with 26 points. Jamal Doss and Fernando Garcia had 10 apiece.
Faulkner's frigid start continued for most of the first half, with the Eagles not reaching double digits until the 5:50 mark on an Ayo Madamidola 3-pointer. The Eagles made only 24 percent of their shots in the opening 20 minutes, and committed 11 turnovers. Faulkner leading scorer Chris Palmore made only two of his nine shot attempts, as the Crusaders built a 26-15 advantage at intermission behind Little, who had 14 points at the break. The lead grew to as many as 14 in the second half, with William Carey seemingly coasting to a win until Faulkner's late barrage.
The Eagles battle Loyola Saturday in New Orleans. The game tips off at 4 p.m.