MONTGOMERY, Ala. ----- Junior Reshad Bickham scored a game-high 16 points off the bench to lead the Auburn Montgomery men's basketball team to a 62-55 upset victory over No. 8 William Carey, giving head coach Larry Chapman his 700th career coaching victory in the process, Saturday at the AUM Gymnasium.
Like they have done several times this season, the Warhawks (8-9, 7-4 SSAC) rallied from a late deficit to earn the victory. AUM was down by seven points, 53-46, with 5:37 remaining. However, a 7-0 run by the Warhawks erased the Crusaders' lead, and started a 16-2 run close the contest. AUM held Carey without a field goal for the final 6:30 of the game.
"William Carey is definitely deserving of its top-10 ranking, but tonight our team played for a full 40 minutes," Chapman said. "I thought we played really well in the first half, but when we got down in the second half, we just kept working hard and battling. I thought our guard play was solid and Chris and Reshad really did some good things inside against some much bigger guys. It was a fiercely fought game, and I thought our team stood up to that. This was a significant win for us as a basketball team in regards to the conference standings."
For the second consecutive game, nine different AUM players scored for the team, with Bickham finishing as the lone man in double figures. Sophomore Michael Willis added nine points, while senior Michael Acoff and junior Chris Bell contributed eight each. Bell also pulled down a team-leading 10 rebounds.
The Warhawks showed great intensity to begin the game, holding the William Carey (17-4, 10-2 SSAC) scoreless for the opening 3:17. However, the Crusaders battled back and tied the score at 9-9 with 12:47 following a lay-up by Kelvin Nixon.
AUM answered from behind the arc, as 3-pointers by Willis and freshman Spencer Jones pushed its lead to seven points, 16-9, with 10:31 remaining before the half. The Warhawks extended their lead to nine points, 22-13, with 7:24 in the first half, on a lay-in by Bell, but the Crusaders closed the half with a 15-5 run and took a one point halftime lead, 28-27. AUM did not trail in the first half until the buzzer, when Jeremiah Dunnings drained a trey from the left wing as time expired.
William Carey maintained the lead in the second half, but with 2:47 remaining in regulation, Bickham threw down a thunderous dunk and tied the score at 53-53. The slam capped the 7-0 spurt for AUM, which also featured a pair of Bickham free throws and a 3-pointer by sophomore Justin Zachary.
The Warhawks took the lead for good on a three-point play by Bickham with 1:59 left to play. Bell converted a second-chance opportunity with 35 seconds remaining and extended the lead to 58-55, before Bickham and Bell combined to go 4-of-4 from the charity striped during the final nine seconds.
For the game, AUM converted 37.3 percent of its shots from the floor, while holding the Crusaders to just 29 percent. Despite being outsized, the Warhawks matched William Carey with 45 rebounds each and held a 28-22 advantage in scoring in the paint. AUM also pulled down 17 offensive rebounds, leading to 13 second-chance points.
"We have really worked well together the last six or seven games," junior LaRel Jackson said. "The atmosphere tonight was a lot of fun. We knew what we were playing for and did a good job of finishing the game tonight. It feels great to be part of the team that won the 700th for coach. He is a great man, on and off the court, and I love playing for him."
Chapman, currently in his 36th season with the Warhawks, became just the 36th coach of a four-year institution to eclipse 700 victories. His career record now sits at 700-472, with 665 of those victories coming at AUM. During his time with the Warhawks, he has made 11 NAIA National Tournaments, won 20 or more games in 15 seasons and coached 17 All-Americans.
"I could never give enough back to AUM for giving me the opportunity to coach here," Chapman said. "The support that the university has shown me during these years makes this even more gratifying. This game has been a great vehicle for me to mold young people. To me, it has provided me an opportunity to show my players how to think better, respond better and live better. I hope I have taught them more about being a good person, rather than just about winning and losing."
Dunnings led the Crusaders with 14 points, while Jamal Doss added nine points and a game-high 16 rebounds.
The Warhawks will return to action on Monday, Jan. 28, when they travel to local foe Huntingdon College. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. from Roland Arena on the Huntingdon campus.