Everything was going to plan.
At half, the University of Saint Mary men’s basketball team was sitting pretty, up 41-28 over visiting Benedictine College in the Spires’ home opener.
Behind a shooting barrage that saw USM go 65 percent from the field and 6-of-7 from the 3-point line, Saint Mary raced out to a double-digit lead in the opening 20 minutes.
Yet, things started to turn sour minutes into the second half. Slowly, the Ravens battled all the way back until the final 14 seconds of regulation, where the visitors completed its comeback with a deep 3-pointer.
The heave gave Benedictine a 60-59 advantage and following a fadeaway shot from Saint Mary’s Shiron Williams, which came up short, the visitors stormed the court in jubilation. The Ravens upset the Spires by one point.
“Obviously, we just broke down mentally,” USM coach Jon Bishop said. “We are in a habit of when things go wrong, they really go wrong for us. We had four or five chances to do the right thing at the end and we just couldn’t do it.”
Matt Heydman led Saint Mary in scoring with 18 points while JEB Greenberg and Chip Schneider contributed 12 a piece. Schneider was the team’s rebounding leader with five while Williams dished out a team-high three assists.
After shooting so well in the first half, USM went ice cold in the second. They converted just 5-of-19 attempts from the field and missed four 3-point tries.
The poor offense could not be covered up by its defense, though Saint Mary did stave off giving up its advantage until the game’s final seconds. Despite that effort, the momentum was too much and several key turnovers down the stretch fed directly into the Ravens’ comeback.
“The first thing we need to do is to experience some success, especially down the stretch in these close games,” Bishop said. “The other thing you do is you start limiting your rotation and figuring out who you can trust in those spots and who you can’t.”
USM, 2-4 overall, will host the College of the Ozarks at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Lady Spires win third straight
Knotted in a 35-all tie at half, the University of Saint Mary women’s basketball team buckled down defensively Tuesday to secure a three-game winning streak.
“The tone and content of my halftime speech was to challenge my team,” USM coach Mike Basler said. “I thought they (Stephens College) were grittier, tougher and more aggressive in the first half than us. But, I think we responded well.”
Page 2 of 2 - Following that challenge, the Lady Spires responded by allowing the Stars just 26 second-half points. While strapping down its opponent, USM added 37 of its own to take a 72-61 win.
“It was our first real gut check at home and they answered the call,” Basler said.
The victory was the team’s third straight and now makes Saint Mary 4-1 on the young year. USM will host the Maui Midwest Classic this weekend, beginning with a 8 p.m. contest Friday against Johnson & Wales.