Lainey Ray was asked Saturday why “Buggy” is her nickname.
“’Cause that’s a silly name,” the 4-year-old daughter of Thomas More head men’s basketball coach Justin Ray said.
There was little humorous about what the Saints did to Kent State-Tuscarawas – a 92-46 win in the Coach Connor Classic and Connor Convocation Center.
Three Saints finished with double-figure scoring – Jacob Jones led everyone with 20 points, Nathan Dudukovich had 19 (including 5-for-10 3-pointers), and Reid Jolly added 13.
You didn’t need decades of coaching experience Saturday to figure out why Thomas More won its third basketball game. The outcome was pretty much decided by halftime: A 23-2 first-half run became a 47-22 runaway after 20 minutes.
“I was happy we got off to a quick start,” Ray said. “I was happy shots were going in. I thought we guarded better.”
Thomas More (3-1) moved to NCAA Division II from NAIA this season. To Ray, getting his team to play together is the most important thing.
“We’ve got a nice core nucleus of guys who have been together for a few years now,” Ray said. “They understand the expectations and how we want to play and what it takes to win. And then you sprinkle in a bunch of guys who have been here. And then you throw in a bunch of new guys, a lot of new guys; they don’t know what’s what yet.”
Tuscarawas was somewhat shorthanded – leading scorer Kameron Shockley, who scored 29 points in the Golden Eagles’ 69-64 win over Ohio Christian last Tuesday in Chillicothe, did not make the trip to Crestview Hills because of an ankle injury.
“We were hindered,” Golden Eagles coach Richard Tharp said. “That’s 25 points out of our lineup.”
After the Golden Eagles’ (3-2) Kyle Shockley (who led Tuscarawas with 15 points and seven rebounds) tied the game a 6-all with a dunk a little less than four minutes into the first half – not another point until Shockley’s jumper with 12:01 left.
In between, the Thomas More’s (4-1) run was as impressive for its diversity as much as its scoring volume.
There were layups from Reid Jolly and Jacob Jones, Wyatt Vieth’s two free throws and 3-pointer and Nathan Dudukovich’s 3, a 14-0 string that took just 3:56 off the clock.
The score: Saints, 20-6, 12:15 to go.
Thomas More followed that with a 9-0 run that featured Ryan Paris’ five points and Jones’ four. The score, Saints, 29-8.
Tuscarawas countered with a 6-0 streak – and watched Thomas More finished with its 18-5 run over the final 2:30.
A scary moment: with 13:33 left in the first half, Jolly landed on his back when Tuscarawas’ Braden Rostad sent him flying. (Jolly returned a few minutes later.) Rostad earned a Flagrant 1 technical foul, and Wyatt Vieth hit the free throws.
“I’ve had a back injury for a couple years now,” Jolly said. “It’s just been a lingering thing; that just disrupted it a little bit. I felt good enough to go back out there. I wanted to.”
The Saints’ first-half defense held the Golden Eagles to 10-for-32 from the field an 0-for-10 from 3-point territory – a good thing because Thomas More was 16-for-35 from the field and 7-of-21 from distance.
“We took more three than twos, and I thought some of them were rushed, I thought some of them were slightly contested,” Ray said. “That’s a conversation every day – what’s a good shot, what’s not.”
For the game, the Saints were 31-for-62 from the field (51.6%), while the Golden Eagles were 20-of-62 for 31.3% and 2-of-15 from 3.
In Saturday’s first game, Cincinnati-Clermont defeated Lindsey Wilson College, 77-62.
The Saints travel to the University of Indianapolis for a game at 2 p.m. Wednesday and host Miami-Middletown at 1 p.m. Nov. 26.
SAINTS 92, GOLDEN EAGLES 46
KENT STATE-TUSCARAWAS — 22-24 — 46
THOMAS MORE — 47-45 — 92
KENT STATE-TUSCAWARAS (46) —Bower 3, Roper 2, Shockley 15, Johnson 9, Dixon 5, Coates 2, Daniels 8, Brown 2.
THOMAS MORE (92) —Jolly 13, Vieth 5, Jones 20, Paris 5, Browne 3, Dudukovich 19, Rylee 5, Howard 9, McClain 8, Geraci 5.
Field Goals: KST 20/62, TM 32/62
3-Pointers: KST 2/15, TM 14/37
Free Throws: KST 4/6, TM 14/17
Rebounds:KST 27, TM 43
Assists: KST 3, TM 17
Turnovers: KST 9, TM 9
Records: Kent State-Tuscarawas 3-2, Thomas More 3-1.