Armstrong gets automatic in the second half in tight loss

DESPITE a scoreless first half, Aussie Taran Armstrong fired in the second period to drag the California Baptist Lancers back into the game in their overtime loss to the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Tuesday.

Armstrong has been touted as one of the highest rated prospects coming out of Australia, with plenty of scouts and experts delivering plenty of praise for the guard’s passing ability. He can also score if needed, which is exactly what he brought to the table in the second half of Tuesday’s game.

When the Golden Gophers took an eight-point lead into halftime, it looked to be an uphill battle for the Lancers. However, Armstrong led a California Baptist rally, scoring all 24 of his points after the change in play, and forcing the game into overtime with a clutch triple late in the second half. Although Minnesota emerged one-point winners, Armstrong did no harm to his draft chances with a mesmerising performance.

California Baptist Lancers (61) def. by Minnesota Golden Gophers (62)

Taran Armstrong – 24 points (9/18 FG, 5/9 3PT), six rebounds, two assists

Like the rest of his team, Armstrong was not at his best in the first half, missing jumpshots and layups as the Golden Gophers pushed ahead on the scoreboard. Trailing by nearly double-digits at the main break, the Lancers needed someone to step up in the second half in what was a big matchup and test of where they were at.

Armstrong’s struggles continued into opening minutes of the second half, but he finally got points on the board a few minutes into the period, draining a three-pointer that brought the margin back to 10 points after Minnesota broke away further in the opening stages. His confidence grew and Armstrong began to take more shots as a result of this.

He is typically a pass-first guard, but he recognised that his teammates were having some struggles from the field, so he backed his own shot-making ability. Another three fell a few minutes later from a nice Hunter Goodrick pass, and California Baptist began to make a bit of a run. Armstrong continued to get involved, this time in the paint as he drove to the hoop, absorbed the contact and still managed to finish for an and-one.

The Lancers were looking to push the pace, and the Aussie was at the forefront of that change. He drove inside with intent, and the Minnesota bigs struggled to defend without fouling. Back to back triples with six minutes to play remarkably tied things up as momentum was well and truly with California Baptist. With one minute remaining and his side trailing by three, a big shot from downtown out of Armstrong’s hands squared up the ledger again with an incredibly clutch shot. Although he missed the game-winning lay-up in the dying seconds of the half, his efforts still saw the team through to extra time.

Armstrong unfortunately started the overtime period with some ill-disciplined defence, giving away a foul and two free throws. However, his passing set up a drained jump-shot from Riley Battin, and gave the Lancers the lead again. Armstrong drove inside with a couple of minutes to play, with his lay-up putting California Baptist back in front after the Golden Gophers delivered a clutch shot of their own. Unfortunately, the Lancers conceded the lead with less than 30 seconds on the clock, and Armstrong could not conjure an answer thanks to some suffocating defence.

Although the match ended in heartbreak for the Lancers, the result could have been much worse for the home side, if not for Armstrong’s awesome second half showing.

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