Darius Simmons scored 21 points and went 10-for-12 from the free throw line to lead Lenoir-Rhyne men’s basketball to a narrow 69-65 victory at Mars Hill on Wednesday afternoon. Mason Hawks added 15 points and hit a pair of game-clinching free throws with four seconds remaining to send the Bears to victory.
The Bears trailed by as many as seven points in the second half and have trailed in the second half in each game so far this season before rallying to come away with a victory.
The Bears knocked down 26 free throws, the most in a regular season game for LR since hitting 21 at Mars Hill on Jan. 22.
Lenoir-Rhyne shot just 35.1 percent from the field in the victory. The last time LR shot below 40 percent and still came away with a win was on Nov. 12, 2016 when they shot 37.1 percent in a 75-52 win over Francis Marion.
In the first half, Simmons and Hawks combined for 17 points but LR was just 9-for-27 from the field in the opening 20 minutes. LR held Mars Hill to just 24 points in the opening half and went 10-of-31 from the field. With 32 seconds left in the half, R.J. Gunn knocked down a 3-pointer and Davion Bradford added a steal and a dunk as the half expired to give the Bears a 32-24 advantage going into the break
In the second half, an early 7-0 spurt by Mars Hill to start the half gave the hosts a 39-36 advantage. The Lions would extend the lead to seven at 47-40 with 11:14 left. With Gunn saddled with four fouls, Simmons took over in the second half and brought the Bears back. After a pair of free throws by the senior with 7:11 to play put LR back on top, Tyson McClain buried a big 3-pointer to give the Bears a 54-50 advantage. With 11 seconds to play, Mars Hill went 1-of-2 from the line and trailed 65-64. Hawks would ice the victory with four free throws in the final eight seconds.
For just the second time since the start of the 2019-20 season, Gunn was held in single digits as the senior had three points.
Bradford finished wth 11 points and went 4-of-8 on the day.
Tim Steele played 20 minutes of the bench and had six points and five rebounds.
The Bears end the 2020 portion of the schedule at 2-0 and will return to action on January 9 when they host Lincoln Memorial.