LOWELL | Merrillville was the latest highly ranked team to have to endure Lowell’s patient offense in a non-conference battle on Tuesday in The Pit.
But the Times No. 2 Pirates used a strong second half and stout inside play from Darion Williams to hold off the Devils 68-60.
“Lowell did a great job of moving the basketball, being patient and finding the open man,” Merrillville coach T.J. Lux said. “In the second half we found a defense that worked a little better and we were much more disciplined where we should be, and we didn’t give them any free baskets.
“I think that was difference. Once we got some stops and turned them over, we were able to get out and run.”
Merrillville (15-2) opened the third quarter with an 11-2 run to take command of the game at 38-35. Williams, who finished with a game-high 20 points, scored the final 10 points of the third to put the Pirates on top 46-39.
“We came out with a lot more intensity,” Williams said. “We listened to the coach more, played harder defense, rebounded a lot better and got better shots off.”
A steal and basket by Jamard Owens sparked the Pirates to start the fourth quarter, and they took their biggest lead at 58-46 on a three-point play by Zoran Talley with 4 minutes and 59 seconds left.
“We just play as a team all the time,” Williams said. “Everybody gets the ball to the man who’s open.”
B.J. Jenkins added 17 points and Talley finished with 10 for the Pirates.
Lowell (8-11) played a near flawless second quarter, rallying from a 17-12 deficit after one period with an 11-2 run to take a 23-19 lead.
The Red Devils spread the floor and worked the ball to the open man with some crisp passes. Three or four of possessions ended with a layup for an easy bucket, and the Devils hit 6-of-6 free throws to take a 33-27 halftime edge.
“We had breakdowns defensively a few too many times, and they got a lot of open layups,” Lux said.
Spenser Kersey scored eight of his nine points in the second quarter. Billy Barker topped Lowell with 19 points.