Rolling right along, the Saint Mary men’s basketball team didn’t miss a beat Wednesday.
Undefeated in league play, the Spires went into its home contest with Friends University hurting, as starting guard JEB Greenberg continues to battle injuries.
But the loss of its NAIA All-American leader did little to slow down USM, who dispatched the Falcons 71-57.
It was the team’s 12th straight victory.
“That’s what we have on this team, we are deep,” Saint Mary assistant coach Troy Brown said. “That will benefit us later in this season. A lot of guys will get a lot of minutes and we expect them to perform.”
A close first half was split open by the Spires near its conclusion. Up six with four minutes left, the home team used an 8-2 run to build a 33-21 edge at the half.
Stifling defense cued the streak and that continued to start the second period, as USM accumulated an 18-point advantage midway through.
“Our offense is fueled by our defense,” Brown said. “A lot of those turnovers lead to easy buckets and we have to understand that good defense can lead to easy offense.”
While Saint Mary never pulled completely away from the Falcons, the team never allowed its visitors closer than 11.
Shiron Williams led Saint Mary in scoring with 18 points, followed by Chip Schneider’s 15 and Jordan Wilcox’s 12.
The Spires, 16-5 overall and 11-0 in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference, will play at Kansas Wesleyan Saturday at 5 p.m.
“Any time we can get a win in this conference, especially down the stretch, we will take it,” Brown said. “We knew they were going to throw some punches at us and we did what we had to do to win.”
USM women just short of upset
With 82 seconds left in regulation, perseverance paid off for the Saint Mary women’s basketball team.
Staying within striking distance all game versus visiting Friends University (15-7, 9-2), the Lady Spires began sinking clutch shots late.
First, Shelby Watson put back a two-point basket, cutting the Falcons advantage to 49-45. Then, after forcing a turnover, the Spires found Watson for second lay-up.
With 24 seconds remaining, USM created yet another Friends turnover. That allowed Adelyn Ezeh to bank-in a crowded shot with seven seconds to spare. The corresponding Falcons’ possession produced nothing and the game headed into overtime.
Unfortunately for Saint Mary, the team could not continue its quality execution into the extra period. Turnovers hampered the offense and the Falcons made just enough buckets to pull out a 58-53 victory.
Page 2 of 2 - “They hit some big shots in overtime,” USM coach Mike Basler said. “We got a couple unfortunate calls, but we just didn’t execute as well as we had been.”
In the first half, Friends threatened to pull away after creating an early double-digit advantage. USM never relented though, and cut the deficit to 29-21 by half.
The second period saw the Lady Spires scratch and claw to stay close with its visitors and finally, in the last minute, everything came together. However, victory wasn’t in the USM cards this night.
“Though we lost, I think we found ourselves tonight,” Basler said. “We played a lot more zone, I’m not a zone coach, but our kids are good at it. It keeps in games and allows to stop dribble penetration that has been killing us all year.”
Watson finished with 16 points for Saint Mary while Jordan VanNess added 11 and Bailey Hooker put in 10.
The Lady Spires, 7-15 overall and 2-9 in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference, will play at Kansas Wesleyan Saturday at 2 p.m.