Booneville, Miss. - Leroy Buchanan's impressive first half set the stage for an impressive offensive performance by the Northeast Mississippi Community College men's basketball team.
Buchanan scored 29 points before the break to guide the Tigers to a 108-76 victory over Bethel (Tenn.) University's junior varsity squad on Monday, November 10 inside legendary Bonner Arnold Coliseum.
The Murray State (Ky.) University signee was a phenomenal 11-of-17 from the floor prior to halftime and also went six-of-seven at the charity stripe. He eventually concluded the matchup with a career-high 31 points to go with eight rebounds.
"I had to step up and make plays to get my team going," said Buchanan. "It starts at practice just going hard everyday. I go game speed in practice that way it feels easy in games."
The Wildcats (4-7) kept things close during the early goings even though Northeast never trailed in the entire contest. Bethel's deficit was as close as one possession at the 12:13 mark of the first period.
The Tigers, who are receiving votes in the preseason National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) poll and ranked No. 25 by the Sporting News magazine, took their initial double-digit lead at 20-10 following back-to-back buckets by Buchanan and a three-pointer from Marcus Summerville.
Buchanan electrified the crowd with two alley oop dunks in the latter portion of the half. His first was a beautiful two-hand slam on a toss off the backboard by Darius Williams that extended Northeast's advantage to 34-20.
His second was a breakaway jam off an underhanded toss from Kendarius Smith. It capped a 12-0 run for the Tigers (2-0) that allowed them to take a 56-30 lead into the locker room.
"When I saw how open I was, I just knew I had to dunk it. A layup wasn't acceptable," said Hudson. "That just turned me up even more and I knew it was going to turn my teammates up."
Long distance specialists Conner McKay and Williams knocked down a pair of shots from beyond the arc consecutively to push Northeast ahead 75-39 with 14:30 remaining in the matchup.
The Tigers pushed their margin up to its largest of the evening at 44 points using a 12-0 run midway through the second. Brandon Lane started the stretch with a layup while Summerville had an old-fashioned three-point play as well.
Another trey by McKay pushed Northeast over the century mark for the inaugural instance this season with 2:49 showing on the clock. He capped the scoring with his sixth make of the night from behind the arc that was assisted by Malik Morris.
Five Tigers reached double figures against the Wildcats with McKay trailing only Leroy Buchanan with 22 points. Williams was stellar once again with 20 points, four assists and four steals to his credit.
Hudson and Summerville each had 10 points as well for their initial double-digit outings at Northeast. Hudson also accumulated a game-high nine rebounds in the Tigers' post.
"Once we got rolling we were good," said Northeast head coach Cord Wright. "We've got good players and I've been telling them to share the ball. That's been our emphasis because we can shoot the ball."
The 108 points accounted for by the Tigers is their most since notching 109 in a victory over Shelton State (Ala.) Community College in the PSP Industries Tip-Off Classic at Itawamba Community College on October 31, 2008.
Northeast had a sensational 31 assists on 40 made field goals. Shunn Buchanan paced that effort for the Tigers with nine dimes while Smith tallied six to the cause as well.
The Tigers captured a plus-15 edge on the boards while forcing 25 turnovers. Northeast also had 24 second-chance points following offense rebounds and outscored the Wildcats' bench by a 56-17 clip.
Northeast returns to action on Thursday, November 17 against Motlow State (Tenn.) Community College. Tipoff for the women's game is at 5:30 p.m. with the men to follow on the Booneville campus.