Alton senior guards Donovan Clay and Malik Smith made the Belleville East Lancers pay for giving them too many open looks at the basket Tuesday in a Southwestern Conference game.
One of the top backcourt tandems in the St. Louis area, Clay and Smith combined for 49 points as Alton rolled into the holidays with a 73-61 win over the Lancers.
Clay, a lean but athletic 6-foot-7 guard, scored 12 of his game-high 25 points in the first half as Alton (5-4-1) took a 32-19 lead. The Redbirds would extend that advantage to as many as 19 points late in the third quarter before Lancers seniors Malik Williams and Isaiah May got their team back in the game.
Held scoreless in the first half, May scored nine of his 14 points and Williams added 10 of his 20 in the third quarter as East cut its deficit to 53-42.
The Lancers (6-5, 2-3) would close to within eight at 56-48 early in the final quarter, but Smith connected on his fourth of five 3-point baskets on the Redbirds’ next possession to extend the lead back to double digits.
The Lancers would get no closer than 10 points the rest of the way.
“I don’t think it was anything we did. It’s just that I think they became more aggressive in taking the ball to the basket in the second half. But we answered them right back,’’ Alton coach Eric Smith said.
“I thought we were very unselfish with the basketball. I don’t know how many assists we had, but it had to be a pretty fair amount. We had a lot of uncontested looks at the basket and when Malik and the rest of our shooters get time to set to set their feet, it’s usually over.’’
Smith scored 24 points for Alton, which was coming off a last second SWC win over Collinsville last week.
While Eric Smith was pleased with the overall effort of his team, East coach Jeff Creek didn’t think his team was ready to play ... at least in the fist half.
“Alton made their shots in the first half and we didn’t make ours. But we just didn’t play with the intensity that we need to play with in the first half to beat good teams,’’ Creek said. “I really have no reason for it. Clay and Smith are very good offensive players and they can shoot the basketball. I was just hoping for a little bit better defensive effort against them.’’
Williams led Belleville East with 20 points while Jared Adams (16 points) and May (13) were also in double figures for Belleville East.