Trailing 75-60 with 4:17 to play, the Belmont Abbey men's basketball team sliced its deficit down to as few as seven, but Lees-McRae sank 11 of 14 free throws in the final 1:40 to stave off a Crusader rally and earn an 88-80 win this evening inside Williams Gymnasium. Lees-McRae improves to 11-9 overall and 6-7 in league play, while the Crusaders drop to 1-19 overall and 1-12 in Conference Carolinas.
Lees-McRae never trailed and the game was only tied once, coming at 3-3, as the Bobcats built a 46-30 halftime lead on the strength of 51 percent shooting from the field. Belmont Abbey shot just 33 percent from the floor in the opening 20 minutes as Ray Chen, who totaled a game-high 23 points, scored 15 as he sank four of the Abbey's nine field goals.
The Bobcats opened the second half on a 9-2 run in the opening four minutes to move its lead to the highest of the game at 55-32.
The Crusaders, which outscored the hosts 50-42 in the second half, began to gradually cut into the Bobcats lead and would embark on a 17-2 run that chopped the deficit from 75-56 to 77-70 with 2:01 to play.
Belmont Abbey would get to as few as seven points twice more, but the Bobcats hit their free throws late to seal the win.
Chen led all scorers with 23 points on 6-10 shooting from the floor. He made all eight of his free throws while adding five rebounds, two assists, two steals and a blocked shot.
Robbie Sterling notched his first career double double with career-highs in points (15) and rebounds (10). Deion Lane posted a double double as well, scoring 14 points and pulling down 12 rebounds. Nick Hough contributed ten points.