This time around was supposed to be different for Saint Mary.
For the second straight year, the Spires men's basketball team earned a sport in the NAIA Division II Men's Basketball Championship tournament down in Point Lookout, Mo.
After getting bounced in the opening round of the competition last season, USM felt more prepared this go-around. They were more experience, more successful and more accustomed to the bright lights of the national spotlight.
Yet, all that was for naught. Late Wednesday night, Saint Mary went cold offensively against Saint Xavier, Ill., in the event's first round and paid the price to the tune of an 82-60 defeat.
“We made the same mistakes that we did last year,” USM coach Jon Bishop said. “We came out tight and couldn't make shots when we were open.”
Poor shooting dogged the Spires all game. At half, the squad faced a 36-28 deficit and that was nearly tripled in the second period as Xavier filled up the buckets.
Xavier shot 49 percent from the floor and had five players record double-digit point totals. On the flip side, Saint Mary shot just 31 percent from the floor, went 7-for-28 from the 3-point line (a 25-percent clip) and had 15 turnovers.
“We got impatient and that bad offense led to bad defense,” Bishop said. “That has been our M.O. at times this year and it happened again last night.”
Matt Heydman finished with a USM-high 18 points while Shiron Williams added 10, Chip Schneider had eight and Kevin Harvey had seven.
USM finished the season 22-9 overall, 16-2 in league and KCAC regular season champs ― its first league crown since 2001.
“Our program took a step in the right direction this year,” Bishop said. “Our program got better than it was last year. And even though we have a sour taste in our mouths right now, it was a good year. We had a great run, a great team and no one can take that away from us.”