POPLARVILLE – Pearl River Community College traded licks with Mississippi Gulf Coast in a battle royal for much of the game Thursday night.
But in the end, the visiting Bulldogs took the measure of the Wildcats, using a big surge midway through the second half to break open a close game and come away with a 77-66 victory in South Division men’s basketball action at M.R. White Coliseum.
PRCC (12-2 overall, 4-2 division) saw its three-game winning streak snapped and fell out of a first-place tie in the South Division standings. Gulf Coast, which had lost four of five games, improved to 10-5 and 3-3.
For three-quarters of the game, it was nip-and-tuck, as the two teams played through 20 lead changes and a pair of ties. Pearl River led 38-37 at halftime, and it stayed close for the first 10 minutes of the second half.
But the Bulldogs took command with a 17-3 run to take a 15-point lead, and weathered a Wildcat comeback down the stretch, hitting 9 of 10 foul shots in the final minutes.
Gulf Coast shot 54.2 percent from the field (13 of 24) in the second half, while Pearl River struggled, hitting just 11 of 32 shots in the second half.
Freshman Eric Thornton Jr. (Jackson), the reigning MACJC Player of the Week, did his part, scoring 25 points to lead all scorers. But he had a below-average night from the foul line, converting just 6 of 13 free throws.
Still, Thornton got the Wildcats back in the game, fueling a 12-2 run that cut the margin to five points, 67-62, with 3:07 to play. But PRCC could get no closer.
Freshman Jonas James III (Jackson) added 13 points for Pearl River, and sophomore Brandon Cranford had 11 points.
The Wildcats will host division-leading Copiah-Lincoln on Monday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., and the game will livestream on prccmedia.com.