CAZENOVIA, N.Y. – Despite a career game by sophomore Darius Smith (Lanham, Md.), the Wells College men's basketball dropped a heartbreaker Wednesday afternoon to Cazenovia College. The Express held the lead for the majority of the game but lost the lead late and ultimately fell by a 72-69 score. Wells falls to 1-11 overall on the year and to 1-3 within the North Eastern Athletic Conference. Cazenovia (4-7, 2-1 NEAC) collects only their second victory against the Express in 13 career meetings.
Smith's 21 total points are a career-high mark as he shot 8-for-14 from the floor and poured home three shots from beyond the arc. Classmate Chris Courtney (Auburn, N.Y.) was 8-for-11 from the floor, tying a career-high with20 points of his own after bombing three-of-five shots from three-point land in the game. Last season, Courtney also scored 20 points against Cazenovia following a 7-for-12 performance from the floor.
A clutch three-point basket from Smith with 5:13 left in the first half elevated the Express to a 25-23 lead. Wells would hold onto that lead through the remainder of the stanza, building a 35-30 lead entering the half following a jumper by Courtney with only four seconds left on the scoreboard. The Express bench would account for 14 of their team's 35 points in the opening 20 minutes.
Wells enjoyed a 10 point lead with 11:33 left in the second half following another three-point basket by Smith, but the host Wildcats would come roaring back from their deficit of 56-46. Cazenovia would score 16 of the game's next 18 points, ultimately capturing a four point lead with 6:52 left following a three-pointer by Malik Adair-Mountain.
The Express would retake the narrow one point lead as a Smith jumper set the score at 69-68 with only 2:41 left in regulation. Wells would not score again, however, as Adair-Mountain's jumper only 19 seconds later was the last field goal made by either side. Wells possessed the ball in the game's final 28 seconds but a costly turnover forced the Express to foul Keith Caiello in the waning seconds. His two free throws set the final score at 72-69 as the Express were unable to generate a game-tying shot attempt in the final seconds.
Adair-Mountain led Cazenovia with 17 total points, shooting 7-for-12 from the floor. Ryan Gavin accounted for 16 points of his own while Caiello and DeMarcus Bernard each scored 11 points for the hosts. Daniel Cunningham assisted a team-leading four baskets while Adair-Mountain registered four takeaways.
Wells returns to action Saturday, Jan. 17 as they face-off against Bryn Athyn on the road at 3 p.m. The Lions are in their first season as full members of the North Eastern Athletic Conference and will face-off against the Express for the first time.