Without standout, Mules still too much for Tigers

Saturday, January 29, 2005

With Poplar Bluff star forward and North Carolina recruit Tyler Hansbrough out of the lineup Friday against Cape Central, junior guard Ben Hansbrough made sure the Mules didn't miss a beat.

Ben Hansbrough made up for the absence of his older brother, who is nursing an injured right foot suffered two weeks ago at a tournament in Springfield, Mo., with a college-ready game of his own to lead the Mules to a 73-62 win against the Tigers.

Hansbrough finished with 24 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. Allan Spencer added 21 points for Poplar Bluff.

"Poplar Bluff has things going in the right direction," Tigers coach Derek McCord said. "Obviously, they proved they have many more weapons than Tyler Hansbrough."

The Tigers (8-11) hung around with the Mules (15-4) until point guard Alex Ray left the game in the first quarter with a throat injury. Ray headed to the locker room with less than a minute left in the quarter and did not return until the second half. Central struggled handling the ball without Ray, committing 12 turnovers in the half to only three in the second half with Ray at the point.

"The turning point was when Alex Ray went out and missed the entire second quarter," McCord said. "We had inexperience at the point, and of course he got us back in the game in the second half and righted the ship."

Despite the loss of their floor leader, the Tigers pulled within 23-19 with 6:31 left in the second quarter on a layup by Eli Harris, who was playing for the first time since suffering a knee injury on Jan. 3 at Caruthersville.

The Mules responded by blowing the game open with a 17-1 run to end the half with a 40-20 lead. Hansbrough had nine points to lead the Poplar Bluff run.

Poplar Bluff coach John David Pattillo said the Mules showed a glimpse of their capabilities in that run, but for most of the game they suffered through a sloppy performance.

"Tonight was one of those games that was just ugly," Pattillo said. "We built a lead, and at halftime we said we wanted to come out and continue to get better, and we just piddled around and didn't get much accomplished."

Harris led Central with 22 points, 20 coming in the second half.

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