Bridgewater College opened up a 22-point lead in the second half and the cushion was more than enough to withstand a late, six-minutes scoring drought as the Eagles defeated Shenandoah University, 72-65, in Old Dominion Athletic Conference action Tuesday evening.
The victory was the second straight for the Eagles in conference play and moved the team one step closer to clinching one of the top eight seeds in the upcoming conference tournament.
Avery Green opened the scoring with a short jumper for the Hornets, but Ronnie Thomas countered with a 3-pointer for Bridgewater's first lead of the game. After a layup by CJ Rudisill, Kenneth Waugh connected from 3-point range to give the Eagles the lead for good.
A free throw by Rudisill cut Bridgewater's lead to 12-9 before a 7-0 spurt pushed the margin to double digits for the first time. Ed Reddick scored from inside and Tavis Stapleton hit 3-of-4 foul shots to make the score 17-9 David Larson then took a nifty pass from Thomas for an easy layup, putting the Eagles on top 19-9.
Starks momentarily stopped the run with a layup, but Benaiah Wise came off the bench and buried a 3-pointer and Reddick and Thomas added layups to put the Eagles up 26-13 with 9:39 remaining in the opening half.
Dante Seraile scored for the Hornets, but the Eagles continued to click at the offensive end as a 9-0 run propelled Bridgewater to a 20-point lead. Wise scored on a layup and Reddick converted a three-point play to push the lead to 31-15. Stapleton then knocked down a 15-footer and Zach Hunter added two foul shots, making the score 35-15 with 5:50 left in the half.
Xavier Alston snapped the Eagles scoring run with a 3-point play before a layup by Reddick and two foul shots by Hunter gave Bridgewater its biggest lead of the first half, 39-18, with 4:30 left in the half.
The Eagles then got sloppy with the basketball and did not score again for the remainder of the half. Bridgewater had six possessions and missed a pair of 3-point shots and turned the ball over four times. The Hornets took advantage and scored seven unanswered points to shave the deficit to 13 points, 39-26, at the half.
The Hornets continued to whittle away at the margin early in the second and pulled to within 10 points, 44-34, on a three-point play by Green with 18:28 left.
Bridgewater answered with a baseline jumper by Daniel McClain and a long 3-pointer by Waugh to increase the lead back to 15. Rudisill scored for the Hornets but Waugh's shot was true once again from beyond the arc to put the Eagles up 52-36 with 16:49 left.
Bridgewater continued to pad its advantage and took its biggest lead of the game when a layup by McClain made the score 66-44 with 12:32 on the clock.
A layup by Stapleton had the Eagles on top 70-52 with 6:30 remaining but that turned out to be the final field goal of the night for the host team.
The long dry spell gave the Hornets a chance to get back into contention and a layup by Green at the 2:36 mark, cut the margin to single digits, 70-61, for the first time in the second.
The Hornets had several chances over the next two minutes to move closer but a turnover and four missed shots kept the margin at nine. Shenandoah finally cut the lead to seven on a layup by Austin, but only 26 seconds remained in the game.
Stapleton was fouled with 21 seconds left and knocked down both foul shots and Starks hit a layup with 15 ticks left for the final 72-65 margin of victory.
Stapleton led the Eagles with 15 points and Waugh added a season-high 14. Bridgewater had four more players with at least seven points.
The Bridgewater defense did the job on Shenandoah's high-scoring backcourt, holding Green and Carithers to a combined 16 points. Green, the ODAC's leading scorer at 24.4 points per game, was held to a season low 11 points. Carithers, who averages more than 15 a game, was limited to just five points. Jimi Starks had a big night off the bench with 20 points to lead the Hornets.
Both teams shot right at 40 percent, but the Eagles held a big edge from 3-point range. Bridgewater hit 7-of-19 from beyond the arc while the Hornets connected on just two of 16 attempts.
Bridgewater held a 47-41 edge on the glass. Reddick and McClain grabbed eight rebounds apiece to lead the Eagles while Brandon Pressley had nine rebounds for the Hornets.
Bridgewater is now 6-7 in the ODAC and 11-10 overall. The Hornets drop to 4-9 in the conference and are now 12-10 overall.
The Eagles are back in action Saturday afternoon when they travel to Greensboro, N.C., to face the Guilford College Quakers. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m.