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Lancers enjoy 3-0 week on the hardwood

Longwood University’s men’s basketball team entered last week with an 0-5 record, and it emerged the afternoon of Dec. 2 with its third straight win.

It was a long, draining marathon of a week, but the Lancers made every bit of it count.

Powering through those last few figurative miles, Longwood grinded out a 61-52 win over Fayetteville State University on Saturday en route to a third straight win, all of which came at home in Willett Hall.

The final push to the Saturday’s finish line came from junior forward/guard Chris Shields, who posted the first double-double of his career with 11 points and a career-high 13 rebounds across a career-high 31 minutes of action. Shields, who was just one rebound shy of a double-double in a win Nov. 26, hit 5-of-9 shots from the field, grabbed five offensive rebounds and produced two steals.

His production, along with a career-high 10 points from junior forward Spencer Franklin and 10 more from Big South scoring leader redshirt junior guard Isaiah Walton, was enough to overcome a sluggish offensive performance that saw the Lancers shoot 38 percent (23-of-60) from the floor against the Broncos (3-5).

“It looked like we were running the last five miles of a 400-mile race,” said Longwood Head Coach Jayson Gee. “I thought we were a step slow, a little lethargic. But I thought it was good for us to be in a position where shots weren’t falling. It discombobulated us a little bit. A couple guys got hot under the collar. I like when those competitive juices get going, even though it was out of frustration today and not competitive drive.”

Longwood’s Saturday shooting slump came as it was playing its third game in a seven-day span following a 107-78 win over North Carolina Wesleyan College on Nov. 26 and an 84-59 win over Bluefield State College on Nov. 29. The Lancers shot a combined 55.7 percent (73-of-131) in those two wins and shot better than 40 percent from three-point range in both games.

However, it was the short game that troubled Longwood on Saturday against the Broncos. Struggling to finish at the basket, the Lancers scored just 30 points in the paint despite taking 40 of their 60 field goal attempts inside the three-point arc.

“We just couldn’t get into a rhythm tonight,” Gee said. “We missed layups, we missed dunks, and when you miss those, it’s draining. All the way to the end, it happened. Those are things that just can’t happen, but they happen when you’re lethargic. It’s been a tough stretch for us with three games in one week. We didn’t have an off day, and it looked like it.”

Despite the offensive woes, Longwood’s defense showed up in force, holding Fayetteville State to 30.9 percent shooting from the field. The Broncos entered the game shooting 46.9 percent from the field, but they hit just 21-of-68 shots from the floor and 3-of-23, 13 percent, from three-point range.

Shields’ 13 rebounds, Franklin’s six and a combined 16 from the guard trio of redshirt senior B.K. Ashe, redshirt senior Charles Glover and Walton, helped the Lancers turn those missed shots into extra possessions and compensate for Longwood’s off-shooting night.

In the win over Bluefield State, Walton scored 29 points, leading five Lancers in double figures, scoring 29 points.

Longwood (3-5) has just five non-conference games remaining before the start of Big South Conference play. Four of those five games will be on the road.

The three-game win streak leads Longwood into the first of those road matchups — a Saturday visit to former Big South foe Virginia Military Institute with tipoff set for 1 p.m.

“It does a lot (for our confidence),” Walton said of Longwood’s three straight wins. “Just getting that monkey off your back and getting into the flow, seeing what we’re doing to win these games can help us when we play against other teams. Honestly, to me the game is about 80 percent confidence and 20 percent everything else. So when you’re confident, and when our team is confident, the sky is the limit.”