With 7 seconds remaining and the Webster University and Asbury University (Ky.) men’s basketball teams knotted at 79, Webster coach Chris Bunch called a timeout. He designed a play that ended with sophomore guard Ahmad Smith — who had already poured in 19 points — taking the game-winning shot.
Smith missed the buzzer-beating, 2-point jump shot, so the Gorloks and Eagles headed into a 5-minute overtime period.
Webster held a 91-88 OT lead, but a 3-pointer by Asbury freshman Mitch McLeish tied the game with 14 seconds remaining. Bunch had a timeout at his disposal, but elected not to use it.
“When they scored, they were so excited they had tied the game coming from behind that they were running down the court and celebrating,” Bunch said. “I just glanced at (assistant coach) Landon (Kurz) and said, ‘We’re going right here.’
“I saw Ahmad had the ball dribbling up the court with 7 or 8 seconds. He’s a very skilled offensive player and can drive and create his own shots. And I thought, ‘I’m just going to let him have it right here and take a shot at it.’”
Smith initially wanted to drive to the basket, but his defender cut him off. So Smith used a spin move to create separation. He then drained a 20-foot, fade-away jumper with 2.3 seconds left on the clock.
“I wanted to take (the shot) to redeem myself because I had a good look, and I should have hit the first one, but I didn’t,” Smith said. “If I had an opportunity to do it again, I knew I was going to try to hit it and make sure it went in.”
Asbury failed to get a desperation shot off in the game’s closing seconds, which allowed the Gorloks to escape with a 93-91 victory on Saturday, Nov. 24 in Louisville, Ky. Smith said he sunk some clutch shots before while at Clayton High School in St. Louis, but never before had he nailed a game-winning basket.
Through four games this season, Smith has recorded a team-high 16.8 points per game on 57.8 percent shooting from the field. He also leads the Gorloks in minutes played (30.2 per game).
It’s a drastic upswing for Smith, who scored 7.2 points per game in a sixth-man role last season. Smith said Bunch’s trust in him to take both potential game-winning shots against Asbury has only raised his confidence level.
“I’m only a sophomore, but just before the season and in the offseason, coach Bunch has been telling me he wants me to be that guy,” Smith said. “He wants me to take over. He saw my potential.”
Smith finished the game against Asbury with 24 points on 10-of-16 shooting to go along with 5 assists. Sophomore newcomer Aaron Griffin, a center, scored 15 points and pulled down 11 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. Junior guard Hollis Edwards and senior forward Roman Robinson contributed 14 points apiece.
With the win, Webster improved to 2-2. Asbury, a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) school located in central Kentucky, fell to 6-3.
Gorloks lose battle with Cincinnati Christian
The day before the victory over Asbury, Webster dropped a tightly contested game to Cincinnati Christian University, 82-78, in Louisville. The Gorloks trailed the Golden Eagles by one point at halftime and tied the game at 67 with less than 4 minutes remaining.
But Cincinnati Christian responded with a 5-0 burst to grab a 72-67 advantage. Webster got within 3 points on three different occasions, but the Golden Eagles held the Gorloks off in the game’s waning minutes. Cincinnati Christian improved to 4-5 on the season.
Smith led the way for Webster with 14 points, while Robinson had 13 points and 7 rebounds. The Gorloks shot 50.7 percent from the field but allowed the Golden Eagles to shoot 57.4 percent.
Like Smith, sophomore guard Danny Zehner was utilized as a role player last season as he averaged 3.3 points per game. So far this season, Zehner’s average has spiked to 10 points per contest on 57.7 percent field-goal shooting. He notched 12 points against Cincinnati Christian and 11 against Asbury.
Zehner said playing right with two scholarship-level teams shows the Gorloks’ potential.
“It says a lot because it really tested how good we could be,” Zehner said. “We should have won both games. We just got outworked the first game we played — I don’t know what our deal was. The second game, that team was definitely better than the one we lost to. And we just finally put everything together.”
Bunch said Webster’s overtime victory was a great confidence builder. But he wasn’t pleased the win came on the heels of a disappointing loss to Cincinnati Christian.
“I told the guys after the (Asbury) game we can’t get into this, ‘Oh, we lost a game, now we’re mad, now we’re going to be focused. OK, we won that one, now let’s ease up again. Oh, let’s get punched in the face and then learn our lesson and go out and play hard the next time,’” Bunch said. “We’ve got to start stringing together some wins and learning to come out every time with the same kind of intensity.
“… It showed the guys if you come out and give the right kind of effort and the right kind of concentration, you can beat some good teams. I think Asbury is as good as any of the teams we’ll play in our league this year. If they were in our league, they’d be right at the top of the league.”
Next up for Webster is the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opener. The Gorloks host Blackburn College (0-5 record) on Wednesday, Nov. 28 at 8 p.m. Webster then travels to Greenville College (3-0 record at press time) on Saturday, Dec. 1 for another SLIAC matchup. That game tips off at 3 p.m.