January 11, 2012

Huntingdon men knock off Berry for third win in five games

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Huntingdon men's basketball coach Mike Pugh challenged his team at halftime on Tuesday.

Nursing a one-point lead against Berry College, Pugh wanted his team to set the second-half tempo with defense. The Hawks answered the challenge by allowing 19 points in the final 20 minutes and knocking off the Vikings 75-57 at Roland Arena.

"The key to the game was our defense in the second half," Pugh said. "We pressured the ball better. Ryan Petty's pressure helped take them out of their game and our inside guys stepped up. Willie (McDowell) and Jeremiah (Thomas) both had big games. We challenged both of them at halftime to work on Berry's big man (Lake Graham) and they contained him."

Graham, a 6-foot-8 forward, scored 15 of Berry's 38 points in the first half before Thomas and McDowell helped hold him to four points in the second half.

"The whole defensive effort was great," Thomas said. "It started with Ryan, the pressure he put on them and all the steals he made. A lot of different guys stepped up and did good things for us."

This was the first home game for the Hawks (3-9) since Nov. 19. After opening the season with two nationally ranked teams in the first three games, Huntingdon played eight straight road games.

"We haven't played at home in a more than a month, so it was fun to be back here tonight," Thomas said. "The crowd was great. The fans created a great atmosphere and we fed off of them.

"This was a big win for us and it's a confidence boost. We've been practicing hard and we've got some great leaders on this team. Guys like Mike Kilpatrick, our senior point guard. He sets the tone and we follow behind him. We had a tough run earlier in the year, but we've won three of the last five and we're really starting to play as a team."

Against Berry (0-14), Thomas turned in his third double-double of the season with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Petty led Huntingdon in scoring with 18 points and also had a game-high five steals. Courtnee Edgar added 15 points and McDowell finished with 12 points and six rebounds.

Behind Graham's 19 points for Berry, Mac Whalen added 13 points and Michael Schulte finished with 10 points.

The Hawks return to action at home on Saturday in their first Great South Athletic Conference game of the season. Huntingdon hosts Maryville at 4 p.m.