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Johnson, Lady Blue Knights rally on the road; men's team loses again

JohnsonUrbana University senior point guard DeVonyea Johnson is making a strong early case to be named the Mountain East Conference's inaugural player of the year. Johnson capped an amazing week with a game-winner at West Liberty University on Saturday afternoon. Her lay-in with two seconds left helped the Blue Knights down the Toppers 75-74.

The conference's second leading scorer at 22.1 points per game, Johnson led all scorers on Saturday with 24 in just 26 minutes. She knocked down 7 of her 14 attempts from the field to drop her season shooting percentage to 56%. Johnson also averages 5.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and 1.6 steals a game. She finished with 7 boards, 4 assists, and 3 steals on Saturday.

After leading for much of the second half, the Blue Knights found themselves trailing the Toppers 73-69 with under three minutes to go. Kate Francisco drew a foul and made a trip to the charity stripe, where she made the first and missed the second. Katy Barkley pulled down one of her game-high 10 boards on the miss and found Johnson open for a lay-up to draw the visitors within one. The teams traded foul shots on their next couple of possessions, setting the stage for Urbana's final possession. Down one with ten ticks left on the clock, Urbana got the ball in the hands of their senior playmaker. Johnson dribbled by her defender and sliced through the help in the lane to lay-in the game-winner with about two seconds remaining. The Toppers got off a desperation heave from beyond half court, but it was off line.

In addition to Johnson's game-high 24, three other Blue Knights reached double figures. Kennedy Boggs shot 8 of 13 from the field, including 3 of 4 from downtown, on her way to a season-high tying 19 points. Barkley recorded a double-double, collecting 14 points to go with her 10 rebounds, and Francisco chipped in 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 blocked shots.

Urbana's win was an MEC-best fifth straight. In the last five days, UU has pulled off 3 wins by a total of 11 points. Johnson scored 24, 21, and 28 points, respectively, in each of those wins. The Blue Knights are 6-1 overall and a perfect 4-0 in conference play. The Toppers slip to 3-5 and 2-2 in the MEC. Conference play takes a break until Saturday, January 4th, but the Blue Knights have one more non-conference game remaining in 2013. The team travels to South Carolina-Aiken on Friday, December 20th for a 1:30 p.m. game. Thanks to her recent surge, Johnson will enter that contest just 20 points shy of 1,000 career points.

Blue Knights Can't Keep up with Top-Ranked Toppers

The #1 team in the country proved to be too much for the winless Urbana University men's basketball team on Saturday night. The top-ranked Hilltoppers from West Liberty University won their seventh straight game to start the season, and the Toppers topped triple digits for the sixth time in seven games, defeating the Blue Knights 108-83.

Last season, Urbana dropped a 105-66 decision on a neutral floor to the top-ranked Toppers. The Blue Knights kept it close for most of the first half on Saturday. West Liberty's pressing, trapping, and fast-paced style of play helped the home team score 53 points in the first 20 minutes, but the Blue Knights trailed by just 14 until the home team ran off a quick 11-5 spurt to end of the half.

The Blue Knights briefly trimmed the deficit to 18 in the second half before the high-octane Topper offense began firing on all cylinders. West Liberty finished with 12 threes and shot better than 60% from the field in the win. Offensively, Urbana played well in the loss. The Blue Knights knocked down 10 threes and shot 46% from the field. The 10 threes and 85 points were season-highs for UU in regulation, but still not good enough to keep up with the #1 team in the nation.

Five Blue Knights reached double figures in the loss, led by senior Danny Goins' 25 on 8 of 16 shooting. Guard NieRonn Miles threw in 17 and dished out 6 assists in just his second game back from injury. Senior Derrick Sanderfer Jr. poured in a career-high 16 off the bench on 7 of 9 shooting. Casey Baker chipped in 12 and Mike Newton tallied 10. Newton and Goins played all 40 minutes in the fast-paced contest.

The Blue Knights are 0-8 for the first time since the 2004-05 season. That team snapped their skid at 8 games with a win in game #9. Unfortunately, Urbana doesn't play again for nearly a month, so the Blue Knights will have to wait awhile to taste their first victory in 2013-14. On Saturday, January 4th, the Blue Knights host Fairmont State University at 3:00 p.m. The game is the first of four home contests for Urbana that week.

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