ROLLA, Mo. – Missouri S&T's men's basketball team ran out to a big first half lead Saturday night, but was unable to hold onto it in the second half and dropped its season opener 79-74 to Blackburn at Billy Key Court.
The Miners, who had only seven players in uniform for the contest, had a 21-point lead at the intermission, but saw the Beavers – playing the game as a discretionary exhibition contest -- connect on 56.1 percent of their shots in the final 20 minutes to overcome the deficit and come away with the win.
Aside from a moment when the game was tied at two, the Miners led throughout the first half. S&T built an early 10-point lead at 17-7 following a three-pointer by Allante Pickens, then after Blackburn cut the margin to four, the Miners built the lead back into double figures with 7:27 left in the half on a basket by Chris Harris (Antioch, IL/Lake Forest Academy).
Missouri S&T, who shot 51.6 percent in the first half, closed the opening stanza by outscoring the Beavers 13-1 to take a 44-23 lead to the locker room.
However, when the second half began, Blackburn began cutting into the margin and trimmed it to 11 five minutes into the half. The Miners pulled the lead back out again, getting it back to 15 on a dunk by Harris at the 11:31 mark, but scored just one point over the next four minutes as the Beavers got to within seven.
Following two free throws by Ervin Sarajlic (St. Louis, MO/Oakville) with 7:02 left that gave S&T a 61-50 lead, the Beavers continued to chip away and grabbed their first lead with 1:38 to play on a basket by Jamaya Wyatt. The teams traded baskets over the next three trips down the floor, with S&T going back in front when Sarajlic scored with 57 seconds to go, but Wyatt scored at the other end to put the Beavers ahead for good.
Harris led five Miners in double figures with 24 points – the first Miner with at least 20 points in his S&T debut since Brian Westre in 1999 – while Pickens finished with 15. Greg Lahm had 12 points, while Romain Louiserre (La Ferte Alais, France/Fredrick Fays) and Sarajlic had 10 apiece; Sarajlic had a double-double in the game with a career-high 11 rebounds.
Wyatt had 21, all in the second half, to pace Blackburn.
The Miners will head to the road Tuesday to face Lincoln in a 7:30 p.m. game in Jefferson City, Mo.