USM hoop teams swept in KCAC openers

What better way to start the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) schedule by having two of the best women's teams go head-to-head?

The University of Saint Mary Spires played host to Friends University Wednesday at the Ryan Center and in the end too many self-inflicted errors cost the home team dearly.

Numerous Falcon offensive rebounds and Spire turnovers cost USM too much and any chance of a home team win was lost as No. 16 Friends left Leavenworth, 85-67 winners.

USM (2-3, 0-1) was led by Candy De Los Reyes' 25-point effort, while Ashley Hinkle added 15 points.

The Spires gave up 22 offensive rebounds and committed 21 turnovers compared to Friends' economical seven miscues.

“We didn’t play with any intensity, we didn’t rebound very well and we just gave up a lot of layups where our help side needed to be,” USM head coach Bruce Erickson said. “We didn’t handle the pressure and we didn’t attack. We were going through the motions. We had 1-on-1s where we could penetrate and pitch, but…

“We were on our heels the whole game. They took it to us and we didn’t react very well. It was bad decision making where we threw it away and didn’t rebound. It’s bad coaching on my part and I will get them ready for the next time.”

The Falcons took a 22-17 lead after a torrid first quarter saw them hold the edge physically and they came out bearing some of that fleet foot of style that had carried the Spire women to near the top of the league standings a year ago.

Friends came out blazing to start the second quarter and put the hosts on their heels by scoring the first 10 points to lead 32-17 with 5:55 left in the first half before a De Los Reyes lay-in ended the bleeding for USM.

The Falcons' tremendous momentum carried for the rest of the half as the visitors carried a strong, 44-27 edge into the locker room.

Friends led by as much as 19, but USM, spurred on by back-to-back triples by Hinkle and De Los Reyes pulled within 50-39 with 6:01 left in the third quarter.

The teams headed to the fourth quarter with Friends holding a slim-ish 61-51 lead.

However the energy the Spires used to cut the deficit in half seemed to leave the building as the game crept toward the finish and a fine Friends'  squad took advantage to pull away.

USM men fall short

The Spire men opened up the home portion of their schedule with a matchup with a gritty Falcons' team aiming to take the school's hoops teams back to Newman with a sweep.

It was also the first time the Spires had played at the Ryan Center without Grant Greenberg since the end of the 2012-13 season.

Yet playing without the school and KCAC's leading scorer, the Spires found enough ways to score, just not at the end when it mattered and fell, 73-70 to open league play on the wrong end of the scoreboard.

Brett Marsh led the Spires with 19 points while Demetrius Cady added 14 points and Teyvon Lundy added 12 points. 

USM dominated the boards to the tune of 38-24 with Lavar McCullough leading the way with eight.

“We were a lot better defensively in the first half, they had guys step up and make some plays,” USM men’s basketball coach Troy Brown said. “It’s about late in the game and making plays and they made more than us.

“We can score a little, but we only scored 70.”

The first half illustrated a different pace of play for the Spires who used the same attack the rim and kick approach, but with more ball rotations touching the hands of multiple players more than one time apiece.

However, the USM men (2-4, 0-1) struggled defensively containing the 3-point shooting of the Falcons with too many hands-down defensive stands against the outside shooting of Friends and settled for a more-impressive-than-it-looked, 32-30 halftime lead.

“You take away the first 3-4 minutes of the game and we were down 12-3, we dominated the first half,” Brown said. “We didn’t have anything to show for it. I told these guys, these games are going to be tough. Every single one is going to be tough. All this means now is we have to go on the road and steal one from a tough team.”

After the break the two teams battled to-and-fro with little give in between and leads exchanged multiple times.

Friends built a seven-point lead, but the Spires rallied and a hoop-and-harm by Marsh pulled USM within 66-65 with three minutes to play.

Friends held the edge and were up 70-67 with the Spires in possession and forced a turnover to take control with 21.1 seconds left.

The Falcons would ice the game at the free throw line despite a nice 3-point bomb by Marsh with 10.7 seconds left and a failed effort to tie at the buzzer.