FORT WAYNE – Concordia knew what it would take to beat two-time defending regular-season SAC champion Bishop Luers – contain James Blackmon Jr. and attack the Knights’ pressure defense.
The host Cadets beat the Knights for the first time in six years 77-68 Friday by doing both of those things when it was needed the most in front of a raucous, capacity crowd.
We haven’t beaten Luers in awhile, so it was nice to do that, Concordia coach Josh Eggold said. It does mean a lot. If you want to win the conference, you have to win your home games, and you have to establish a little bit of confidence building. They fed off that atmosphere and really used it to our advantage.
Concordia (4-0, 2-0 SAC) hadn’t beaten Bishop Luers (1-2, 1-1) since a 66-56 win in 2006, a year before Eggold took over. The Cadets have finished second in the conference the last two years behind the Knights.
Blackmon Jr., an Indiana recruit, came into the game averaging 41 points, but Concordia corralled the junior guard for the first half and built a big lead. Blackmon Jr. came alive in the second half and finished with 30 points, but made only 7 of 21 from the field. He did manage to boost his career total to 1,002 points.
After Blackmon Jr. opened the season by scoring 38 and 44 points in the first two games, showing no effects of a knee injury that ended his 2011-12 season early, the Cadets knew he had to be the focal point of their game plan.
We came out focused and determined to defend them in a way that our scouting report dictated, Eggold said. Marq (Rogers) did a great job on James all night.
D.J. McCall led a balanced Cadets’ scoring effort with 19 points, with Rogers and Brian Gremaux each scoring 15 and Thomas Starks adding 14.
With a size disadvantage, the Knights tried to utilize a full-court press for most of the game but it seemed to backfire in the first half as the Cadets continuingly went up and down the floor with ease. It resulted in a 43-21 Concordia lead in the second quarter that settled at 43-27 by halftime.
Our goal was to come out and force turnovers, Luers coach James Blackmon Sr. said. They did a good job of coming out and throwing over our press.
They are a bigger team. They are a very experienced team, and they were going to kill us on the glass. If we could force turnovers, that matches them getting second shots on the boards.
Blackmon Jr. and his brother, freshman Vijay Blackmon, got hot in the second half to help the Knights get to within 74-66 with 40 seconds left. Blackmon Jr. had 22 points in the second half, while Vijay Blackmon scored all 15 of his points after halftime.
It all goes back to composure, Starks said of holding Luers off at the end.
James Blackmon plays tough all the time. It was a team defense thing. We work hard together as a team no matter what.
Matt Harris added 10 points for the Knights.