The Lander Bearcats placed four players in double figures and cruised to a 72-59 win against Lenoir-Rhyne on Sunday afternoon at Finis Horne Arena. The Bearcats improved to 6-5, while the Bears dropped to 5-4.
Michael Panaggio paced the Bearcats with 17 points. Freshman guard J.R. Washington tied his career high, chipping in with 14, while Mario Pendarvis added 13 and Dermaine Smith 10. Panaggio dished out six assists, while Pendarvis snatched a game-high 12 rebounds.
“It’s great for us because we have struggled to find consistency in general, both offensively and defensively,” Panaggio said. “If we get Mario (Pendarvis) playing the way he played, we are going to be tough. J.R. (Washington) shot the ball well. It was a great team effort.”
The Bearcats raced out to a 15-4 lead early in the first half, led by Washington’s 11 points during that span. The freshman hit three 3s during that stretch. The hot start sparked a Bearcats squad that led 38-25 at halftime. According to Bearcats coach Jeff Burkhamer, the balanced scoring attack reflected what he expects offensively from his squad moving forward.
“I think that’s how we are going to play most of the year,” Burkhamer said. “I think we will have pretty good balance. We will have a couple guys that will lead us a lot of games. The way we are playing offensively, we are going to get shots for a lot of different people.”
Trailing by double digits for the majority of the contest, the Bears pulled within six with just under four minutes remaining in the game. Bears guard Will Perry was fouled shooting a three-pointer. Perry connected on all three free throws, narrowing the Bearcats lead to 63-57.
The Bears’ momentum, however, would halt there.
On the ensuing possession, Dermaine Smith threw down a thunderous put back dunk off of a Pannagio three point attempt. Pannagio would follow with four consecutive made free throws to put to rest any hopes of a Bears comeback, giving the Bearcats a 69-57 lead. While the Bearcats turned in a impressive offensive performance, they played perhaps ever better on the defensive side, limiting the Bears to just 32.7 percent shooting from the field.