The Toros picked a good time of year to find their stride. A blistering second half, led by Leo Lyons, who scored 31 on the night, gave Austin their fourth win in five games, beating Rio Grande Valley 107-95. They now sit at 19-23 and are half a game behind Fort Wayne for the last playoff spot.
Austin was down by 15 early in the second half before flipping a switch and taking control of the game. The Toros outscored the Vipers 33-14 in the third.
Lyons continues his torrid scoring pace. Brad Jones liked his production so much, he played him 38 minutes, eight more than any other Toro. He has hit the 20-point mark in six of seven, averaging 25 over that span.
The reliable veteran Squeaky Johnson had a solid all-around game. He had 14 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals. He has adjusted nicely since the loss of his pick-and-roll buddy, Marcus Cousin.
Speaking of Cousin, the rookie center was released by the Jazz on Friday. Utah’s big men were starting to get healthy and Cousin’s 10-day contract was up, so they let him go instead of giving him another 10-day deal. The Toros were 2-1 without their former leading scorer and it will be interesting to see where he winds up.
It was a reunion of sorts Friday night. Lance Thomas and Viper guard Jon Sheyer were senior co-captains for Duke last year. Together they led the Blue Devils to the national championship. Last night, Sheyer had 15 points to go with six assists and Thomas finished with 10 points and nine rebounds.
Austin has been a thorn in the side all season for the Vipers, who drop to second place in the West Conference. With that win, the Toros are 5-3 against them and clinch the season series.
Round two is tonight at 7 p.m. The playoffs are on the line, and, like every game down the stretch, it will carry added importance as they are locked in a four-team battle for the last spot.