Howard Payne improves to 5-1 in conference

NATCHITOCHES, La. — The Howard Payne Yellow Jackets moved back into sole possession of first place in the American Southwest Conference West Division thanks to Tuesday night’s 74-68 road victory over the Louisiana College Wildcats.

Howard Payne (7-5, 5-1) climbed a half-game ahead of Sul Ross (7-6, 4-1) and a full game in front of Hardin-Simmons (9-4, 3-1) and Concordia (8-4, 3-1) in a tightly-contested race.

The Yellow Jackets built a 37-32 halftime advantage, which grew to eight points midway through the second half, only to witness Louisiana College (2-7, 0-5) grab a 63-62 lead with 4:21 left to play.

Howard Payne responded with eight on the next nine points to reclaim a comfortable 70-64 edge with 2:06 remaining.

A three-pointer by De’Marcus Hurd at 4:06 gave the lead back to the Yellow Jackets, while Khyce Randall knocked down a trey with 2:44 left and Rickey Guillory chipped in a pair of free throws with 2:06 remaining.

Guillory finished with a team-high 24 points for Howard Payne while Randall chipped in 22 points as the Yellow Jackets shot 43 percent (24 of 60) from the floor, 47 percent (9 of 19) from the three-point arc and 87 percent (13 of 15) at the free throw line.

Also contributing offensively for Howard Payne were Hurd with nine points, Donovan Jenkins with five points and a team-high 12 rebounds, J Bailey, Talen Davis-Renfro and Thomas Bingham with four points each and Shadd Cole with a bucket.

For Louisiana College — which hit 46 percent (26 of 56) of its field goals but only 23 percent (4 of 17) of its threes and 57 percent (12 of 21) of its free throws — Steve Evans tallied a team-best 17 points trailed by Taylan Grogan with 14, Raheem Regis with 11 and Timothy Stokes with 10.

Howard Payne also owned a 37-35 edge in rebounds while committing just 10 turnovers.

Tuesday’s game was played at Northwestern State University’s Prather Coliseum due to the floor being painted at Louisiana College’s H.O. West Fieldhouse in Pineville.

Next up for the Yellow Jackets is a 7:30 p.m. Thursday tilt against ASC East foe Belhaven (6-5, 1-3), which suffered a 62-61 non-conference loss to Huntingdon Tuesday night.