Christmas tournament: Notre Dame's rally vs. Charleston falls short

Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Charleston's Maurice Moore gets double teamed by Notre Dame's Jordan Reddin, left, and Jacob Tolbert during the second quarter of a second-round game during the Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament at the Show Me Center on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010. (Kristin Eberts)

It wasn't difficult pinpointing the key to Charleston's win over Notre Dame on Tuesday night.

The Bluejays forced 18 first-half turnovers, leading to numerous easy baskets and a 10-point halftime advantage.

That was enough of a cushion for the fifth-seeded Bluejays to hold off the fourth-seeded Bulldogs 60-54 in a quarterfinal of the 66th annual Southeast Missourian Christmas tournament.

Charleston (7-2) will play two-time defending champion and top seed Scott County Central today in a 6 p.m. semifinal. Notre Dame (4-4) will face eighth-seeded Advance at 3 p.m. in a fifth-place semifinal.

"We put pressure on them and they had to make up a lot. They couldn't quite make it up at the end," Charleston coach Danny Farmer said. "We knew they would come back. It's never over with Notre Dame. They're a very good team."

Notre Dame's Nathan Meystedt looks for an open pass while guarded by Charleston's Ryan Parham during the first quarter Tuesday. (Kristin Eberts)

Notre Dame, which never led and trailed from late in the first quarter, fell behind by 14 points twice, including late in the third period.

A furious rally by the Bulldogs sliced the deficit to a point twice down the stretch, including 51-50 with a little more than three minutes left.

But the Bulldogs could not complete the comeback, which coach Kevin Roberts attributed to their first-half problems against Charleston's relentless pressure.

"It's hard playing catchup the entire night," Roberts said. "You exert so much energy coming back. You just can't play that way.

"Our guard play was nonexistent until the fourth quarter. We've seen pressure like that. ... We played Sikeston."

Notre Dame's Jacob Tolbert grabs a rebound against Charleston during the second quarter Tuesday at the Show Me Center.

Junior guard Greg Tucker led Charleston with 19 points, eight in a first quarter that ended with the Bluejays ahead 15-9. They scored the final six points of the period.

"He's a really good player. He can take anybody off the dribble," Roberts said.

Tucker turned in the play of the game to help Charleston seal the victory.

After Notre Dame pulled within 51-50, senior forward Claude Armstrong's layup with 2:35 left made it 53-50. Armstrong scored 12 points.

An errant Notre Dame pass bounced off the rim and Charleston gained control of the rebound.

Tucker drove into the lane and threw up an off-balance left-handed scoop shot. He said he was trying to draw a foul but no whistle came.

It didn't matter. The ball swished through the net with 1:56 remaining to put the Bluejays ahead 55-50.

The Bulldogs still had some chances after that but couldn't get closer than four points as Charleston made just enough plays to hold on.

"It was a great win for us," Tucker said. "We came out more intense than they did. They couldn't handle the pressure at the beginning."

Jacob Tolbert, a 6-foot-7 senior forward who had 5 inches on Charleston's tallest player -- the 6-2 Tucker -- paced Notre Dame with 19 points.

Also scoring in double figures for the Bulldogs were senior guard Alex Beussink with 13 points and junior guard Nathan Meystedt with 10 points.

Beussink helped fuel Notre Dame's rally with six fourth-quarter points, including a follow shot that made it 51-50 with a little more than three minutes left.

"They're a good team," Roberts said of the Bluejays. "They do pressure you real well."

While the best Notre Dame now can finish is fifth, Charleston will shoot for its first spot in the championship game since winning the most recent of its record 15 titles in 2002.

It will require an upset of Scott County Central, but the Bluejays are confident after giving the Braves their toughest game of last year's tournament.

Charleston led Scott County 17-4 early before falling 79-67 in the semifinals.

"We have to match their intensity," Tucker said. "If we do that, we feel like we can play with anybody."

Notre Dame9141318--54

NOTRE DAME (54) -- Derek Landewee 7, Nathan Meystedt 10, Patrick Williamson 5, Alex Beussink 13, Jacob Tolbert 19. FG 19, FT 12-14, F 19. (3-pointers: Beussink 1, Meystedt 2. Fouled out: Landewee)

CHARLESTON (60) -- Aaron Cassell 5, Ryan Parham 4, Michael Hull 4, Greg Tucker 19, Claude Armstrong 12, Darrion Henderson 7, Krushon Scott 9. FG 23, FT 12-20, F 15. (3-pointers: Tucker 1, Henderson 1. Fouled out: none)

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