Johnathan Crawford scored 20 points and pulled down eight rebounds as Shorter University topped visiting Reinhardt University 92-79 on Tuesday night at the Winthrop-King Centre.
The Hawks improved to 5-0 with the win while Reinhardt drops to 2-4. Shorter is now 3-0 at home this season, improving its home record since the start of the 2009-10 season to a Southern States Athletic Conference best 16-2.
Crawford’s total was a season-high and led four Hawks in double figures. Darius Steger scored 15 with the help of a pair of 3-pointers and Willie Woodard and Montagious Brown came off the bench to add 13 and 12 points, respectively.
In a game plagued by 59 total fouls that resulted in 82 free throw attempts between the two teams, Shorter used a dominant effort on the defensive end in the first eight minutes of the game to set the tone.
Shorter held Reinhardt scoreless until the 11:37 mark of the first half, but by that time, the Hawks had already established a 14-2 lead.
The Eagles missed their first seven shots from the floor and were hassled into six turnovers in the first eight minutes. Reinhardt made just 29 percent of its shots in the first half and went 1 of 11 from distance in the period.
The Hawks led by as much as 19 in the opening 20 minutes and held a 46-29 lead at the half after Marqise Wright drained a three from the wing as time expired in the period.
Shorter then put a stamp on its victory seconds into the second half when Wright picked David Lawson clean at midcourt then hoisted a lob that Crawford slammed through the rim while drawing a foul. Crawford’s ensuing free throw put Shorter up 49-31 and the rout was on.
The Hawks lead grew to as much as 25 when a Crawford free throw pushed the advantage to 71-46 with 10:30 remaining.
Shorter shot 48 percent for the game and assisted on 16 of its 28 field goals, but neither was the most impressive statistic of the night.
The Hawks, who ranked near the bottom in the SSAC last season in free throw percentage at 64 percent, made 31 of 39 (80 percent) from the foul line against the Eagles.
Shorter’s defensive effort wasn’t unique to the opening moments of the game. The Hawks held Reinhardt leading scorer Carrlos Lyles, who entered the game averaging 19.8 per outing, to 13 points on 4 of 13 shooting. Lyles fouled out after 29 minutes and also committed four turnovers.
Corey Edmondson added nine points for Shorter, which was saddled with foul trouble in the first half and as a result, got just 17 points combined from its top three scorers: Wright, Eric Nix and Walter Hill.
The trio still played a large role in the win, with Wright adding six boards to his five points, Nix getting all six of his points in a perfect performance from the foul line while also dishing out four assists and Hill swiping a game-high three steals to accompany his six points and four rebounds.
Larricus Thomas led Reinhardt with 21 points – he went 11 of 14 from the foul line as Reinhardt attempted 43 free throws as a team.
Shorter returns to action on Friday, Nov. 19 as Spring Hill College of the SSAC West Division comes to the Winthrop-King Centre for an 8 p.m. tip.