LONGVIEW, Texas (LeTourneau Athletics) – Nate West decided he’d dazzle at least one more time.
To the tune of a career-high 47 points, we might add, in another record-setting effort as LeTourneau University men’s basketball team beat Louisiana College, 91-76, Thursday and remain tied for second place in the ASC’s East Division.
West went 13 of 26 from the floor, 9 of 18 from three-point range and 12-for-12 from the free throw. He finished with nine rebounds, seven assists and four steals – the latter which made him the school’s all-time leader, surpassing Brian Pace. West now has 174 steals. His 458 free throws are second all-time behind Jim Kohring.
Still, there was that Mamba Mentality in him that wanted 50 on another special night.
“My teammates started letting me know,” the normally low-key West confessed. “They let me know they were going to keep giving me the ball, so it’s always fun when your teammates support you.”
West has supported this program for four years, and now the YellowJackets have a chance to do something special Saturday on his Senior Day sendoff when they host Belhaven at 3 p.m. A win would give LETU 20 wins – a benchmark, with a run in the American Southwest Conference Championship Tournament they believe may earn them an NCAA Tournament bid.
“Once Nate caught fire, we definitely rode him to the finish line,” YellowJackets coach Dan Miller said.
A sluggish first half ramped up after the break as both teams shot over 47 percent in a game where 33 percent was the high-water mark in the first 20 minutes. LETU got out in transition in the second half, outscoring Louisiana College, 16-6.
The Jackets (19-5, 12-3 ASC) took a 19-point lead on Justin Moore’s layup with 13:47 remaining. Then West caught fire, hitting a 3, sinking two free throws, burying another triple, coming up with a steal and lay-in and then sandwiching two more threes around a pair at the stripe. That put the Jackets ahead by 26.
After Warren Richardson threw down a dunk to keep the lead at 26, Louisiana College – a team battling for the fourth ASC East Tournament spot – made a run, pulling within 14 on Denzel Austin’s triple with 3:28 to go. But West sank two free throws, then buried two more threes, and hit two more from the stripe to put it away.
“We knew Louisiana College would come in very focused tonight, fighting for a spot in the ASC Tournament,” Miller said. “I thought the first half we left a lot of points out there, and didn’t finish in the paint at the percentage we needed to. I liked our focus coming out of the locker room in the second half.”
LETU made nine of its 14 triples in the second half. The YellowJackets’ bench was outscored, 42-11.
John Argue finished with 12 points, nine rebounds and a block. Korrin Taylor had 11 points, a block and three of LeTourneau’s 20 assists. It was the second time in the last three games the Jackets had 20 or more assists, and the eighth time this year. Justin Moore and Richardson each scored seven points.
“We have big goals, which is to make the NCAA Tournament, so every win is very important to us,” said West, whose previous career-best 41 came against the team he’ll see Saturday. “I’d like to see the stands filled the last time I get to play in this arena.”