McKendree University sank 16 3-pointers Tuesday and had five players reach double figures as it rallied from an 11-point deficit in the first half and defeated Lincoln, Mo., 102-92.
O’Fallon High graduate Michael Jackson, a 6-foot-5 junior, led the Bearcats with 23 points, while Central High graduate Brandon Book came off the bench and scored 20 points and junior Darin Winkelman had 19 points.
McKendree’s 16 3-pointers came on 33 attempts. Jackson had five 3-pointers, Steeleville High graduate Winkelman had four and Book had three. The Bearcats (2-0) made their first nine shots of the second half, helping them erase a five-point deficit at the intermission.
“At halftime, Coach (Harry Statham) got on us a lot and told us we had to work harder on defense,” Jackson said. “My goal and our team goal was to come out playing harder on defense. The offense just came. I had some good screens from my teammates to get open shots, and they just went down.”
Another local product, Althoff graduate David Franklin, a junior, scored 16 points and made two 3-pointers. Redshirt freshman Nate Michael, the son of former Carlyle and Illinois star Tom Michael, finished with 14 points and two 3s. Junior Laylon Smith led the Blue Tigers (3-2) with 23 points. Junior O’Shai Clark had 20 off the bench for Lincoln, which sank 11 3-pointers.
McKendree shot 55 percent (31-for-56), including 64 percent in the second half (16-for-25).
Statham wasn’t pleased with the Bearcats’ defense, and although they have more offensive firepower this season, winning shootout games isn’t in the plans.
“I’m always happy with a win, but I’m disappointed in the overall play,” Statham said. “The defense has regressed from where it was earlier. It was a very important game for us and it was a nice win. They had a good year going at 3-1 and they have some good athletes. We knew that, but we had a very slow start, a bad first half.
“We shot better the last half and got back in it, but I’m not happy with how we played. We’ve worked so hard on defense the last eight, 10 days. I thought it was going to be solid, but it was porous. We let things occur that we talked about and worked on all week that we weren’t going to let happen.”
Winkelman sparked a torrid start to the second half, making three 3-pointers in a span of 2 minutes, 31 seconds. The Bearcats, who made their first nine shots of the second half, finally took the lead for good at 59-56 on Book’s 3-pointer from the right corner at the 15:39 mark.
Lincoln was within 61-59 on a three-point play by Smith with 14:45 to play, but McKendree re-established control on back-to-back 3-pointers by Book and Winkelman made it 67-59.
“I took that first shot (of the second half) and it went in, and after that I was feeling good,” the 6-6 Winkelman said. “The basket just seemed to light up when I got the ball. Everything just started flowing good for me. I got in the flow of the game and let it come to me.
“When we score 102, we’re going to be pretty tough to beat. We have some work to do on the defensive end, but we’ll get it straightened out.”
Smith hit a free throw for the Blue Tigers to make it 67-60, but Book’s 3-pointer was the Bearcats’ ninth consecutive made shot and it extended their lead to 70-60 with 13:26 left. Lincoln was within 91-87 with four minutes remaining, but senior A.J. Schmidt made two free throws for the Bearcats and Franklin also had one to make it 96-88 with 2:24 left.
McKendree trailed 22-11 in the first half, but four 3-pointers and a pair of three-point plays enabled the Bearcats to climb back into contention.
The Bearcats grabbed just their second lead of the first half when Franklin sank a 3-pointer from the left corner to make it 34-33 at the 4:30 mark.
But the Blue Tigers, who hail from Jefferson City, Mo., popped a trio of 3-pointers in the final 4:10 of the half to take a 50-45 lead at the break.
The squads combined for 15 3-pointers in the half, with Lincoln collecting eight. Both teams were shoddy at the defensive end, with Lincoln shooting 59 percent (20-for-34) and McKendree shooting 48 percent (15-for-31). Book led the Bearcats with 14 first-half points and three 3-pointers.