Setters Pull Away in the Second Half to Defeat Georgian Court

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Pace freshman guard Mike DeMello shoots a free throw late in the second half of Saturday's home game.
Pace freshman guard Mike DeMello shoots a free throw
late in the second half of Saturday’s home game.

By Andy Jacobs
Through the early portion of the 2014-15 season, the Pace University men’s basketball team hasn’t exactly reminded anyone of the Bay Area’s Splash Brothers.
“Right now, we’re a bad 3-point-shooting team,” admitted Setters coach Pat Kennedy late Saturday afternoon after watching his players misfire on 19 of their 23 attempts from beyond the arc against visiting Georgian Court. “We’ve got to get in the gym and we’ve really got to work on it. We’ve got to get a lot of shots up, and that’s the only way we’re gonna get better.”
Fortunately for Kennedy, two of the 3-pointers the Setters did manage to make against the Lions came within 40 seconds of each other on consecutive possessions late in the second half. Both came from just right of the key and were provided by Shelton Mickell to cap a 10-1 run that helped break open what had been a close contest.
With Mickell erupting for 19 of his game-high 25 points in the second half, the Setters wound up pulling away down the stretch to win 70-55 at the Goldstein Fitness Center. Kyle Pearson and Mike DeMello added 14 points apiece as Pace ended a three-game losing streak and improved to 2-5 this season.
“I was really proud of him,” said Kennedy about Mickell, a 6-2 junior guard who played one season at Central Connecticut State. “He did a great job. He’s terrific. He’s our best kind-of-go-to guard. I just like him. I knew if we brought him in, he’d be the type of kid who could do that. He’s our captain and he’s our leader.”
The back-to-back 3-pointers by Mickell, who currently leads the Setters in scoring at 16.4 points a game, enabled Pace to open up a 58-47 lead with just 3:45 remaining on the clock. Georgian Court never got closer than eight points the rest of the way as the Setters made 10 of their 12 free throw attempts in the waning moments. Pearson supplied a breakaway tomahawk dunk with 40 seconds to go to put the icing on the team’s first win in nearly two weeks.
“Oh, we needed this one badly because we kind of {gave} away the Molloy game,” said Kennedy, referring to the second game of the season when the Setters squandered an 11-point, second-half lead. “And this was the start of eight of 11 at home. So we can start building our record, both generally and within the conference.”
Despite making just 10 of their 28 shots from the field in the first half, including 0-for-8 from 3-point range, the Setters were still able to take a 27-24 lead at the break. The Pace advantage quickly stretched to eight points when Mickell tossed in a shot in the lane 25 seconds into the second half and DeMello soon followed with a 3-pointer from the left corner.
But the Lions answered with a 15-4 burst, highlighted by a couple of Keith Hughes dunks, and grabbed a three-point lead with just under 12 minutes remaining. They were still ahead by two points when Mickell scored five points within 11 seconds, starting with a trey from the top of the key that gave Pace the lead for good. A pair of free throws by Pearson with 7:04 to go started the 10-1 Setter run that all but decided the outcome.
After the Pearson foul shots, the teams went scoreless for over a minute and a half before Mickell delivered a look-away pass on the break for a layup by Pearson that extended the Setters’ lead to six points. The Lions’ Jordan Wejnert made one of two free throws and then Mickell provided his two consecutive 3-pointers to give Pace a bit of breathing room.
“Shelton is really explosive,” said Kennedy. “Can steal the ball, can score in traffic, and tonight hit some big 3’s for us, too. So I thought our guards played well. I love our guards right now. They’re starting to play good basketball. But we’re gonna have to go to different players every night to try to be the best team we can be as we develop.”
Though he was pleased with what he got from his backcourt most of the afternoon, Kennedy did see a few turnovers early in the second half that helped Georgian Court briefly reclaim the lead.
“The turnovers are killing us,” he said. “We just have a propensity to turn the ball over, make bad passes or dribble into traffic. It was just ridiculous that we turned the ball over so many times with an eight-point lead. I mean, at the same point in time of all the games that we’ve struggled in, it’s because of a group of turnovers in a short period of time. So we have to eliminate that.”
Up next for the Setters is a winnable midweek road game and then a very challenging home contest against Le Moyne on Saturday afternoon.
“We have not played well in conference play,” said Kennedy. “We have Adelphi on Wednesday. That’s a huge game for us. We have to make this Adelphi game a real mission for us.”

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