March 2, 2012
CHARLOTTE - Malik Alvin was called for his third foul with 14:31 remaining in the game, his team unable to put the Fayetteville State Broncos away.
Most players would've found themselves on the bench for a while. But with the Broncos only trailing by six, 60-54, Shaw head coach Cleo Hill left his star in the game.
It was a gamble that paid off handsomely.
While the Bears still had trouble turning Fayetteville State away, Alvin hit the game's biggest shot, burying a contested 3-pointer from the corner with 2:55 to go to give fifth-ranked Shaw a cushion it could finally keep on its way to a 90-77 victory over the Broncos in the CIAA Tournament on Thursday night.
"It was a decision that, at this point in the season, it's win and advance," Hill said of keeping Alvin in the game despite the foul trouble. "We needed our Player of the Year in the game."
Alvin, named the CIAA's Player of the Year last week and the league's second-leading scorer, did sit for the last 12 minutes of the first half after drawing his second foul, but was near flawless in the second half, finishing with 19 points to help carry the Bears (25-2) into the tournament's semifinals, where they will play Winston-Salem State at 9 p.m. on Friday.
Shaw, the Southern Division champion, has won 21 straight games and is in line to potentially host a regional in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
The Broncos (10-17), the Southern Division's No. 4 seed, gave Shaw all it could handle in the teams' third meeting, though. Fayetteville State, which pushed the Bears to double overtime in Raleigh on Jan. 30, got within three points, 72-69, with 5:15 to go, and trailed just 75-71 after Tim Plummer was credited with a bucket after defensive basket interference.
But Alvin, despite a hand in his face, saw enough daylight from the left corner to let it fly, giving Shaw a 78-71 lead and sparking an 8-2 run that put the Bears back in front by 10, 83-73, with 1:42 to go.
"I had a little room and got a pretty good look at (the basket)," Alvin said of the shot. "It wasn't a bad shot."
Fayetteville State head coach Alphonza Kee said he felt like the Broncos gave the Bears their best effort.
"It was an excellent game," Kee said. "We played well against a great basketball team. That's one of the best teams in the country, and we competed. I'm as proud as I can be."
Even when Alvin had to sit with two fouls with 12 minutes to go in the first half, the Bears never slowed down. Sophomore Curtis Hines, who came into the game averaging just 11 minutes per game and only 6.2 points this season, scored 15 of his game-high 21 points to lead Shaw. Karron Johnson added 15 points, Junius Chaney had 11 and Tony Smith orchestrated the high-octane offense with nine points, nine assists and five rebounds.
Plummer, in his last collegiate game, led the Broncos with 16 points while sophomore Tyrrel Tate added 15.
The first half was played at a torrid pace, and Shaw, which shot 63 percent from the field in the opening period, used its athleticism to rip off a 15-3 run to take a 15-6 lead just over 6 minutes into the game.
But the Broncos didn't back down, and behind 10 points from Plummer, Fayetteville State answered with a 14-4 spurt to tie the game at 19 with 11:45 to go.
While Shaw responded with a 7-0 spurt, Fayetteville State managed to keep the deficit around three or four points for much of the rest of the half.
Hines hit a 3 just before the end of the half to give Shaw a 49-42 lead at the break, and the Bears extended the run to 11-2 spanning the half for their largest lead to that point, 55-44, with 18:19 to go.
Still, the Broncos battled back, closing within five by the 10-minute mark and setting up the dramatic finish.
"If there are five better teams in the country than Shaw, I'd like to see them," Kee said.