Men's Basketball: Panthers pull away to beat Rust 69-50

Men's Basketball: Panthers pull away to beat Rust 69-50

LaGrange pulled away from Rust for a 69-50 victory Tuesday in Mariotti Gym. The Panthers upped their early season record to 3-1, while the Bearcats dipped to 0-3.

The Panthers got 15 points from Justyn Olson, while Drew Vanderbrook had a double double of 14 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Alex Bonner and Travis Thompson each had 11.  

The 19-point win was the largest for the Panthers against Rust. The 50 points allowed was the fewest by a Kendal Wallace team since taking over as head coach. Despite the low point total, Wallace is looking for more defensively from his team.

"I didn't feel like we played very good defensively. I like more intensity and aggressive defense and we just weren't getting it done tonight," Wallace said. "I thought we played down to their level some. Rust had travelled a long way and played in Birmingham this past weekend and went back home and then came back. We knew they would be road weary and we didn't take advantage of that. We hung around with them way too long in my opinion."

The Panthers jumped out to a 19-6 lead as Vanderbrook scored the team's first eight points. The Bearcats cut the deficit to one, 19-18, midway through the first half.

The Panthers outscored Rust 13-2 over the final four minutes to take a 38-24 lead at halftime. Olson keyed the run with a pair of 3s with Bonner adding a trey of his own. 

The Panthers were still leading by 14 after Vanderbrook made a pair of free throws for a 51-37 lead with 9:33 left. Once again, the Bearcats chipped away at the deficit and trailed 55-46 with under four minutes left.

The Panthers finished the game with a 14-4 spurt to win going away. Jamison McCray's 3-pointer gave LC the 69-50 final score.

The Panthers finished with a 48-34 edge rebounding. They outscored Rust off turnovers 17-7, while the deeper Panther bench led by Thompson had 29 points to just nine for the Bearcats.

LaGrange plays Emory and Oglethorpe this weekend at the Oglethorpe Classic in Atlanta. The Panthers will open USA South play Dec. 3 at Maryville.

"Emory and Oglethorpe are two very good opponents and we always schedule this Thanksgiving tournament and they will be a good test for us," Wallace said. "Like I said, I thought we played down a little bit to Rust's level. They looked tired and we kind of looked tired too. Hopefully, with Emory's intensity and quickness we'll pick that up too, kind of like we played at the Covenant tournament against Emory & Henry and Dallas."