Defense wins the day for Senators against Cleveland State

Walters State’s Sly Thompson (2) drives to the basket against Cleveland State on Wednesday night.

On a night when its offense wasn’t clicking, Walters State turned up the defense to produce a victory.

Coach Bill Carlyle’s Senators pulled away in the final three minutes Wednesday night at ‘Z’ Buda Gymnasium to drop Cleveland State, 59-45.

The Senators played mostly zone and held the Cougars to 27.4 percent shooting in racking up their eighth win against four losses. They are now 3-2 in Tennessee Community College Athletic Association play.

Cleveland State hit only 17-of-62 from the floor and made just 10 percent of its three-point tries (3-of-32) in falling to 5-5 overall and 2-2 in league play.

Demarius Boyd tossed in 17 to lead Walters State with Kobe Powell adding 14. Sly Thompson had 10 for the Senators, who also struggled to convert shots.

The Senators made just 26 of 56 for 42.9 percent and hit only one three in five attempts.

They were but 10 of 19 from the free throw line.

Jaquez Hicks had a double-double to lead the Cougars with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Kerry Pratt added 10 points and Jadakiss Williams grabbed 11 rebounds. The Cougars had a 38-36 rebounding margin.

Anthony Jones pulled down a dozen for the winners.

Carlyle said, “For us to not score any more points than that and win is hard to believe. We made more errors than any two teams ought to make. We have to be better than that.

“We didn’t have (Luiz) Machado and that hurt us offensively, but Cleveland played really good defense tonight,” he continued. “I thought we also did a really good job in our zone.”

The coach said, “I never thought we could hold them that low in scoring, but I never thought we’d be held that low either. So it was good defense and not much offense either way.

In a game like Wednesday against a team like Florida A&M, the Tennessee bench saw action early and often and held up well. Tennessee has struggled to get bench production with such a young team, using just two players on their bench against Washington and three against VCU.

But on Wednesday, they played all nine scholarship players on the team with Olivier Nkamhoua and Davonte Gaines playing over 20 minutes. Both players responded to the test with Nkamhoua posting the first double-double of his Tennessee career with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

“Olivier can do everything, but you haven’t yet what we know he can do,” Barnes said. “I don’t think he knows what he can do sometimes…If he will really learn the offense, he’ll be a much better player. He’s got to grow up quick, and we need him because he alone can make our team better.”

John Fulkerson and Yves Pons held their own down low for the Volunteers, going up against the Rattlers Elvins Desir who is 300 pounds. Fulkerson had 15 points and two alley-oops while Pons had 14 points and seven rebounds.

Fulkerson and Pons scored the first 12 points of the game for UT.

Both Pons and Fulkerson will have their hands full in a week and a half when they go up against Memphis’s Precious Achuiwa who averages 14 points and almost 10 rebounds.

“They have to get the ball more,” Barnes said. “We worked on that the last couple of days, getting the ball in there and letting them get a feel. It might be the first time all year that a forward led us in shot attempts.”

Tennessee and Memphis tip-off at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN on December 14 at Thompson-Boling Arena. Last season, UT took down the Tigers 102-92 at Memphis.