DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - LaGrange bounced back at the Daytona Beach Shootout with a 61-53 win over Eastern Connecticut State on Monday.
The Panthers improved to 8-2 and are off to their best start under fifth-year head coach Kendal Wallace. It is also the best start by a Panther team since the 1992-93 squad began the season 11-1.
For the second time this season, the Panthers knocked off a team that was in the D3Hoops.com Top 25 preseason poll. Eastern Connecticut (8-4) began the season ranked 14th in the poll. The Panthers defeated No. 18 Emory 91-86 at the Maryville Classic on Nov. 29.
Junior guard Justyn Olson led all scorers with 18 points and also led the Panthers with seven rebounds. Seniors Mark Wagner and Mike White each had nine points. It was a season low for Wagner, who did not reach double figures for the first time.
The Panthers held the Warriors to 36.8 percent shooting in the game and forced 21 turnovers, leading to 28 points. They tied a season-high with 16 steals. The Panthers were 14-of-17 at the free throw line, while the Warriors were just 6-of-13.
The Warriors held the lead for the first 13 minutes of the game. After trailing by six, the Panthers tied the game at 22 on a pair of free throws by Duncan Parker.
Tied at 24 with 5:09 left, the Panthers scored the final nine points of the half to grab a 33-24 lead at the break. Olson had seven of the Panthers' final points, finishing the half with a jumper and a 3-pointer on back-to-back possessions.
At the start of the second half, Tyler Langston had two steals at the defensive end to set up baskets by Olson and White for a quick 37-26 lead. Later in the half, Langston drained a 3-pointer to give the Panthers their largest lead, 55-41, with 7:23 remaining.
Olson sealed the win with a pair of free throws with four seconds left for the 61-53 final.
The Panthers break for the holidays until Jan. 2, when they go on the road at Covenant for a USA South game. They return to Mariotti Gym on Jan. 4 to face Millsaps.