GREENWOOD – The Lander men's basketball team got its 2012-13 season off to a good start Tuesday night behind David Pruett's 32 points and double-doubles by Darius Carrier and Corey Wright in an 80-62 victory over Allen University at Finis Horne Arena.
Pruett made four 3-pointers and five of five free throws in a six-minute stretch of the second half when the Bearcats (1-0) blew the game open. He scored 13 consecutive Lander points, helping the team expand its lead from 47-44 to 66-48.
The senior wing fell two points shy of his career high of 34 points set early in the 2010-11 season versus Southern Wesleyan.
Carrier had the best statistical game of his Lander career with 11 points and 13 rebounds. The junior post player made five of nine shots from the floor and ignited the team early in the second half with a dunk and a string of rebounds.
Wright picked up where he left off last year with 11 assists and also scored 11 points. The senior point guard was third in the nation in assists per game last year.
Lander newcomers Jareal Smith and Dermaine Smith also had good games. Jareal scored nine points and Dermaine had eight rebounds.
Jadia' Johnson paced Allen (0-1) with 18 points while Eric Russell scored 17 points. Richard Johnson, who scored 35 points versus the Bearcats last year, was held to nine points in this game.
"You have to give credit to the defense," said Pruett. "We got some easy baskets. Our defense created our offense. That was a complete team effort. The team set some great screens and I hit some shots. We executed throughout the game."
"David guarded Richard Johnson and had a great overall game," Lander coach Jeff Burkhamer said. "Those guys (Pruett, Wright and Carrier) are returners who are supposed to have good games. We had a great team effort, especially in the second half."
Lander hit 24 of 60 shots from the floor (40 percent), 22 of 30 free throws (73 percent) and 10 of 24 from 3-point range (42 percent). The Bearcats were out-rebounded 36-35 but forced 23 turnovers and dished out 20 assists as a team.
Allen made 23 of 50 shots (46 percent), nine of 16 free throws (56 percent) and seven of 15 from behind the arc (47 percent).
After watching an 11-0 lead vanish in the first half, Carrier's dunk and Pruett's 3-point barrage ignited the Bearcats in the second half.
Leading 41-39 at halftime, Lander slowly expanded its lead to 45-39 on Wright's basket and Dermaine Smith's two free throws. After Russell nailed a 3 to pull Allen within 45-42 at the 15:56 mark, the Bearcats delivered a jolt when Wright flipped the ball inside to Carrier for a thunderous dunk.
Then Pruett caught fire.
Pruett's 3 from the left corner expanded Lander's lead to 53-46 just inside the 12-minute mark, and he added a baseline jumper to build the advantage to nine with 10 minutes to go.
Lander took its first double-digit lead of the second half when Pruett hit another trey, making it 58-48 with nine minutes left. On the next Bearcat possession, Pruett was fouled in the act of shooting a 3 and made all three free throws to expand the lead to 61-48.
Pruett hit two more 3s from the same spot in the left corner on consecutive possessions, blowing the game open at 67-48 with 7:55 left.
The Bearcats built their first 20-point lead at 70-50 with 6:27 to go when Pruett hit two of two free throws.
Lander's Scott Elder swished a 3 from the left side, making it 75-51 inside the five-minute mark.
The Bearcats were scoreless until the 1:02 mark when freshman Courey Sirmans hit a 3 from the right corner for a 78-60 lead. Lander hit the 80-point mark on freshman Chidozie Omile's layup with 21 seconds left.
The game looked like a blowout early when the Bearcats scored the game's first 11 points. Pruett had two baskets and three steals, Jareal Smith also had four points, Dermaine Smith made a layup, and Wright had a free throw and three assists as the lead was 11-0 with 16:30 left.
Allen's first basket came at the 16-minute mark when Henry Jenkins scored off an offensive rebound. But the visitors from Columbia dominated the next several minutes to take a lead.
Jadia' Johnson twice pulled the Yellow Jackets within four on a three-point play that made it 14-10 at the 12:34 mark, and two free throws that closed the gap to 16-12 with 12 minutes left.
Allen closed within a possession four times, with Russell's 3 making it 30-27 with 6:29 to go. Russell's basket started a run of eight unanswered points capped by Richard Johnson's 3 that gave the Yellow Jackets their first lead of the game at 32-30 with 4:43 left.
Pruett's 3 put Lander back on top, 33-32, with 3:41 to go. And after Russell's 3 gave Allen a 37-34 advantage, Wright tied it with a trey from the right corner. At that point, eight of the last 10 field goals combined by both teams were from 3-point range.
Wright's free throws with 19 seconds left gave the Bearcats a 41-39 halftime lead.