SAN ANTONIO – Under the bright lights of the AT&T Center, where championship banners and retired jerseys of legends hang in abundance (and a plethora of Best Indoor Rodeo banners), the Austin Spurs excelled on the big stage to defeat the Delaware 87ers, 102-93.
Orlando Johnson lit up the scoreboard for Austin with 23 points, five rebounds and five assists. Charles Garcia came off the bench to drop 22 points and nine rebounds. Livio Jean-Charles put on a spirited performance with 16 points, 17 rebounds and seven blocks. And Cory Jefferson came through in the clutch with 15 points and six rebounds.
Aaron Harrison’s 23 points led the way for the 87ers on Thursday night. Former UNLV product Carlos Lopez had a double-double off the bench with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Lopez’s teammate at UNLV and former national champion at UConn, Roscoe Smith, also had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. And Russ Smith added 14 points, six rebounds, nine assists and four steals.
Both teams battled tightly early, with Austin securing a two point lead to end the first quarter.
The Spurs blew the doors off Delaware in the second quarter behind Johnson’s seven points, giving Austin a 20 point lead heading into halftime.
“When you bring (Johnson) back to our team it gives us that veteran leadership that we desperately need and some toughness,” head coach Ken McDonald said after the game. “It’s one of those things where we wish he was here a couple weeks earlier, but that’s fine.”
A fatigued Spurs team faded a bit in the fourth quarter, as the 87ers cut Austin’s lead down to just five points with two minutes remaining. But the lockdown defense from Jean-Charles and a clutch 3-pointer by Jefferson would seal the deal, giving Austin the nine point win.
“Any time you get a win it’s good,” Jefferson said. “Hopefully we can build on it with this road trip we have coming up.”
As Jefferson mentioned, the Austin Spurs (19-21) will try to claw towards a playoff spot with their upcoming five game road trip. They’ll start in Ohio against the Canton Charge (24-17) tomorrow afternoon at 12 p.m. with the game on Facebook Live.
Stay tuned to Spurs on Sixth and Project Spurs as we’ll have more features and interviews coming from last night’s game.