Harder hustle shown by Lions on home court

The Lion basketball team, led by Head Coach Jim Yarbrough, defeated Western Illinois University in an intense back and forth match ultimately ending in a 62-52 win in the Lion’s favor. The Lions (3-2) put numbers on the board in the first minute of the game with junior forward/center Devonte Upson’s slam dunk, assisted by junior guard JaMichael Hawkins. Besides a slow patch late in the third quarter, Yarbrough is very pleased with the team’s performance at home in non-conference play.
“To have a home game, and to hold serve, and to get a win is always a positive,” Yarbrough said. “One of our goals this season is to go undefeated at home. So, so far so good.”
Senior forward Antonio Benton led the Lions in field goals going 7-10 at the line overall, also with 11 total rebounds. Benton recorded four slam dunks with assists from Upson and freshman guard Joshua Filmore.  
“Tonight was a total team effort,” said Benton. “That’s one thing Coach is emphasizing this year is to play unselfishly. I think we got a great team to do that.”
Defensively, the Lions were present under the goal with Upson taking nine rebounds while Filmore took five. Offense saw a 3-point field goal increase, going from 2-8 in the first half to 3-6 in the second. Junior guard JaMichael Hawkins was 3-7 in 3-point field goal attempts and 5-12 for field goals.
Yarbrough says certain players got a chance to shine on the court that may not have had a sharp game when they played LSU last week. Hawkins was one of those standout players in this match against the Leathernecks. However, the main difference in the two games being the allowance of turnovers. With ten turnovers in the first half, the Lions quickly progressed in decision making, only allowing two in the second half.
“We made some adjustments and protected the ball a little bit better,” said Yarbrough. “I think our turnovers over all, you know, turning the ball over wasn’t too big of an issue for us [tonight]. LSU was our worst game of the year, [with] seventeen. We had twelve at half time and five in the second half. So we’re learning how to play together, and learning our roles and our jobs. Like JaMicheal didn’t have a particularly good game against LSU, but he was very good tonight”
Hawkins kept the momentum going with two layups, a steal and aggressive defense rebounds, also 2-2 in free throws. After a dunk from Benton, assisted by senior guard Dre Evans, and a good free throw shot by Evans, the game came to an end. Benton was also happy with how he and his team mates focused on what they have done well in past games, not anything negative.
“We just kind of focused on the things we did good and we played harder,” Benton said.
The Lions may be undefeated at home but Yarbrough wants his team to get better with mental and physical rest, basketball takes precision but respect for the body as well. With a realist mindset, Yarbrough and his coaching staff will help the team become more efficient in all aspects of the game, but only after everyone’s respective Thanksgiving meal with family and friends.
“First thing is to get some rest, and to get our bodies right,” Yarbrough said. “So much of this game, you know, they’re not robots, you can’t drill them. You need to be as exact as you can, but you also need to have the energy and the spirit to want to fight. It’s real important.”
The Lions will be on the road to play North Texas, Saturday, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. and return home to the University Center matched with Southeast Missouri State, Dec. 7 at 11:30 a.m. Listen in on KSLU 90.0 FM.