The University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) Buccaneers men’s basketball team upset Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC) foe Philander Smith University (PSU) 74-71 at the Elridge Blake Sports and Fitness Center on Saturday night. The win gave UVI its fourth win on the season and second in GCAC play.
UVI (4-13, 2-9 GCAC) struck first and jumped out to a 5-0 lead after winning the tip. The lead was short-lived, however, as Philander Smith would tie the game at seven-all and take a 10-7 lead on the next possession. The Panthers would remain in control for most of the period as they were able to keep the Buccaneers at bay after the teams traded baskets.
With one minute left in the half, junior guard Jalil Langston got hot for the Buccaneers scoring seven of nine points for UVI to close out the half. Langston tied the game at 30-all with a tip-in on a missed field goal attempt by Maurice Smith, Jr. Two possessions later a three-point shot by Langston, a 6-3 guard from Suffolk, Virginia, gave the Buccaneers the 33-30 lead, their first lead since the 16:12 mark. With 11 seconds left on the clock, he delivered once again with another shot from behind the arc giving his team a 37-32 lead going into the locker room.
The Buccaneers remained in control as they opened the second half on a 12-5 run, pulling away from their opponents and giving the team its largest lead of the evening (49-39). However, The Panthers would not go away as they battled back into the game, going on a run of their own to take a 59-58 lead with 10 minutes remaining in the ball game. The two teams traded baskets down the stretch as the battle intensified with time winding down in the final period.
Naythan Shaw-Clarke put UVI ahead by three points ,70-67, at the free throw line, but PSU answered with two consecutive layups to overtake the Buccaneers 71-70 with 2:14 remaining in the game. With the game in its final moments, a defensive rebound and assist by senior guard William Steger led to a fast break layup by Smith, Jr. to give the Buccaneers a 72-70 advantage. On the ensuing possession, Langston was fouled after corralling the defensive rebound sending him to the free-throw line with three ticks left on the clock. Langston sank both free throws, icing the game and securing the victory for the Buccaneers 74-72.
All five starters for the Buccaneers scored in double digits (Langston, Steger, Shaw-Clarke, Thomas, and Smith, Jr.)
Langston and Smith, Jr. combined for 38 points, scoring 19 points apiece on the evening.
Shaw-Clarke scored his 1000th career point at the 12:45 mark with a layup in the first half. The 6-3 guard finished with 12 points, six assists, and two blocks in the game.
Junior forward Nico Thomas added 10 points in his second start of the season, including two thunderous dunks that sent the arena in a frenzy.
For the Panthers, Christione Rufus scored 17 points.
The Buccaneers will play their next three games on the road at Fisk University, Oakwood University, and Wiley University on February 8, 10, and 12, respectively before returning home to the Sports and Fitness Center to close out the regular season. All three matchups can be seen on Channel 120 of the HBCU+ app.
About UVI Athletics
The University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and, as of July 1, 2023, competes in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC). Entering the 2023-24 season, the Buccaneers will begin their 17th season of athletic competition. As the only Historically Black College or University (HBCU) in the Caribbean, UVI currently sponsors six sports, including men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s basketball, and men’s and women’s outdoor track and field. For more information on UVI Athletics, visit UVIAthletics.com.