ST. LOUIS – Effective defense helped the Mineral Area men’s basketball team win comfortably where its offense had traditionally struggled on Wednesday night.
The seventh-ranked Cardinals never trailed after producing some early transition baskets, and topped short-handed MCCAC opponent St. Louis 66-51.
Zac Cuthbertson posted a double-double with 13 points and 11 points, and Mineral Area (26-1) averted any potential danger ahead of its paramount showdown with Three Rivers on Saturday.
Lamar Morgan also scored 13 points, and fellow sophomore Shawn Roundtree added 12 points with five assists and four steals in the victory.
St. Louis (16-10) played without top scorers Sean Rigmaiden and Todd Simms due to injury and illness, and was limited to seven made field goals in the first half.
Cuthbertson finished an early fast break, then assisted on subsequent layups by Morgan and Devin Thomas as the Cardinals grabbed a 16-9 lead.
Mineral Area had a tepid 16-of-28 showing from the line, but prevented the Archers from generating many clean scoring chances near the basket.
Morgan knocked down the first MAC 3-pointer just before halftime, and his team entered the locker room with a 29-17 advantage.
Amar Miller capped a 12-2 surge to open the second half when his long triple dropped through as the shot clock expired.
Consecutive driving layups by Cuthbertson and Morgan created the Cardinals’ largest lead of the game at 52-29 with about eight minutes remaining.
Raushaun Amos tallied a game-high 19 points for St. Louis, exclusively during the second half. He sank five 3-pointers during a scorching stretch with the outcome all but decided.
Thomas scored nine points while Miller had eight and Mark Laros chipped in seven for Mineral Area, which forced the Archers into 11 first-half turnovers.