ANNVILLE – Down a star and another starter, it wasn’t exactly the ideal circumstance for the Lebanon Valley College men’s basketball team. But the Flying Dutchmen overcame, by pulling together and playing together.
It certainly didn’t hurt that they’re deep, flexible and unselfish.
On Wednesday night inside the friendly confines of Lou Sorrentino Gymnasium, Lebanon Valley used a well-rounded and balanced effort to outlast Stevenson, 71-54 in a Middle Atlantic Conference Commonwealth tilt. Following an uneven initial 20 minutes of play, the Flying Dutchmen competed much better during the second half, especially during the opening moments of it.
Despite the absence of leading scorer Collin Jones and glue guy Luis Garcia, Lebanon Valley improved to 5-4 overall and 2-1 in the conference with the fourth victory in its last five outings. The setback left Stevenson 6-3 on the year and 1-2 in the circuit.
“We just went with the group we had,” said Lebanon Valley head coach Brad McAlester. “Without Luis and Collin, it was a big win for us. (Evin) Temochenko and (Zach) Tucker played great. (Braden) Bohannon always plays his role and he played well, as well.
“We’re definitely getting better at that (spacing and playing together),” added McAlester. “We moved the ball and looked for each other. Evin did a good job of rolling (in the post) and we found him.”
For LVC, the critical moment of the contest occurred during the first seven minutes of the second half, when it stretched a one-point halftime edge to 51-36. That 17-3 spurt was made up of eight inside points from Timochenko, four points by Tucker, a Bohannon three-pointer and Jaylen Reichner’s bucket.
The Flying Dutchmen’s advantage never dipped below double digits the rest of the way.
“The score indicates it,” said McAlester of his side’s performance in the second half. “We made stops, and they (the Mustangs) didn’t shoot the ball well in the second half. The game plan worked well. We started playing man-to-man and then switched to zone. We just wanted to pack it in. They’re (the Mustangs) all athletes and they can get to the hoop.
“The first three minutes of the second half, we got the lead up to eight or nine,” McAlester added. “Then we increased it by a couple of points over the next few minutes. But the last three minutes of the first half we didn’t do the right things, and we were only up one at halftime.”
On 12-of-16 shooting from the field, Timochenko poured in a game-high 28 points, while the steady Tucker contributed 18 points, eight assists and four steals. In 29 minutes of action, Bohannon, a product of Elco, collected five points and three rebounds.
Thanks in part to Ryan Harder’s 11 caroms, LVC posted a 34-27 advantage on the glass. The Flying Dutchmen shot 57 percent from the floor, made all 13 of their free throw attempts and held Stevenson to 30 percent shooting during the second half.
“He’s (Timochenko) getting better and better,” said McAlester. “He was not much of an offensive player at Wilson. He has come on, he’s just not comfortable with the 15- to 17-footer yet.”
Nursing a one-point lead midway through the opening half, Lebanon Valley went on a 9-2 run to open a 30-22 advantage. Tucker knocked down a trey, Timochenko scored on a lay-in, Jevon Griffin maneuvered inside for a deuce and Payton Lewis made good on a lay-up during the span.
But Stevenson outscored LVC 11-4 over the last 2:42 of the first half, and only trailed 34-33 at the break.
“When we lost to York, we did not play well,” said McAlester. “We’ve got a lot of guys who’ve just got to learn to play their roles. We’ve just got to try to keep getting better and stay healthy. This team is very young.
“The league is pretty competitive,” continued McAlester. “Everybody’s beating each other. It’s going to be rock and roll all the way through.”