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TJ Nesmith
TJ Nesmith was fifth in the conference in field goal percentage.
photo courtesy of Lenoir-Rhyne Athletics

Lenoir-Rhyne Men’s Basketball Outlasts Wingate in Double Overtime

The Lenoir-Rhyne/Wingate rivalry has brought many memorable moments with tonight adding to the list for senior center Cooper Fowler. Two years ago, Fowler hit the game-winning buzzer beater in an 86-85 win that landed on the SportsCenter Top 10 and he followed that up with an epic step-back 3-pointer with 5 seconds left in overtime to send it to double OT. Fowler would finish with a season-high 18 points and went 7-of-9 from the field while adding three boards in 25 minutes as LR topped Wingate by three, 108-105 after 50 minutes of basketball.

It didn’t look like the game would even get to overtime as Wingate led by seven with 1:42 to go in regulation and six with 51 seconds. A T.J. Nesmith 3-point play cut it to three and then the senior would score five more points in the next 29 seconds to put LR up 81-79 with 10 seconds left.

Wingate’s Jarren Cottingham hit a driving layup with four seconds left to even the game at 81 and send it to overtime.

In the first OT, it was the Bears who would take the upper hand. A Fowler triple put the Bears up six at 90-84 with 2:36 to play. However, Donell Nixon would hit three free throws and Andreas Wilson connected on a 3-point to even the game at 90. A jumper by John Massey made it 94-92 Wingate and Destin Clark was fould with 13 seconds to go. Clark went just 1-of-2 from the line, leaving the door open for the dramatic Fowler three to send it to double OT.

With the game tied at 98, LR took over. Jalen Johnson buried a three and Nas Tyson converted a layup in the lane to put LR up five. Malik LeGania’s three-point play made it 107-100 with 35 seconds but the Bulldogs wouldn’t go away. Down 108-100 after a Johnson free throw with 23 seconds, Nixon hit a lay up and Wilson stole the ensuing inbounds pass and nailed a triple to make it a one-possession game at 108-105.

Tyson was fouled with just under two seconds to play and went 0-of-2 from the line but a Wingate heave at the buzzer from 85 feet wasn’t close as LR prevailed.

Nesmith had arguably his best game of his career with 29 points and a career-high 12 boards before fouling out. Johnson went for 24, including nine in the two overtime periods, while hitting 4-of-7 from long range. Fowler went 4-of-6 from three and accounted for 18 points off the bench. Hamilton Campbell added nine and five assists and Tyson had seven points, seven boards and four assists. LeGania added a season-best 10 points and five boards.

LR had to come back in regulation and pull it out in OT despite losing L.J. McCoy at the 15 minute mark of the second half with an injury. Nesmith fouled out with 1:14 left in the first OT period.

The win ended an eight-game road losing streak for LR. This was the 85th 100-point scoring game in program history for LR and just the second since the end of the 2020 season.

LR is now 75-10 all-time when scoring 100 points and 10-1 under Everick Sullivan. LR also snapped a six-game losing streak overall.

Wingate’s Wilson erupted for 30 points off the bench to go with his 25-point performance against the Bears in Hickory earlier this season. He also had a 17-point performance against LR in 2021.

Lenoir-Rhyne improves to 9-13 overall, 4-10 in the South Atlantic Conference. The Bears will return to action on Saturday when they travel to Tusculum for a 4 p.m. tip.