MOREHEAD – Senior forward Lyonell Gaines erupted for career highs in points (27) and rebounds (14) to lead the Morehead State men’s basketball team to an 86-83 victory over Nevada in game one of the College Basketball Invitational Championship Series Monday at Johnson Arena.
Gaines, who had a double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds) by halftime, registered his fourth career double-double, all coming in the last six games. He finished the night 11-of-15 from the floor.
“He’s (Gaines) the reason we’re winning lately,” said MSU Coach Sean Woods. He’s playing like a madman, he’s playing like I knew he could all season long,”
MSU won its 11th game in the last 12 outings and improved to 23-12, marking the highest win total since the 2010-11 team won 25. The Eagles continued their historic postseason, winning their fourth CBI game. MSU had previously won two postseason contests in 1956 and 1961.
The announced crowd of more than 4,000 rooted on MSU for the final time this year on its home floor.
“What a tournament championship atmosphere! I’m just tickled to death that our fans showed up like they did. They’ve gotten behind this team with great enthusiasm,” said Woods. “This was a total team effort, and it is so refreshing to end the year at home with a win like this.”
The Eagles now travel to Reno for game two of the series on Wednesday at 9 p.m. The finale (if the teams are tied 1-1 after Wednesday) would be Friday night in Reno.
The back-and-forth battle featured 16 ties and 13 lead changes. Gaines’ jumper with 5:28 remaining gave the hosts a 73-72 advantage they never relinquished. MSU pushed ahead 83-76 with 2:59 left before the Wolfpack cut the margin back to 83-80.
An Anthony Elechi bucket and Brent Arrington free throw gave the Eagles their final point total, and Nevada missed two three-pointers in the final 20 seconds.
Morehead State also got 15 points off the bench from junior forward DeJuan Marrero, while Arrington had 13 points and a team-high four assists and three steals in his final career game at Johnson Arena.
The Eagles held a 37-36 rebounding edge, including 15 offensive boards. MSU has only been out-rebounded six times in 35 games in 2015-16.
Nevada guard Tyron Criswell hit 10 field goals and led all players with 31 points to go along with seven rebounds. Eric Cooper, Jr., totaled 15 points.
The Eagles shot 48 percent (31-of-64) for the game, including a blistering 55 percent (17-of-31) in the second half after leading 38-36 at the break. The Wolfpack ended at 50 percent (29-of-58).