Huntington, Ind. - On opening night of league play at the Merillat Complex, No. 13 University of Saint Francis (5-2, 1-0) pieced together a solid second half to hand the Forester men’s basketball team a disappointing 81-74 loss.
While points didn’t come easy for either team in the first ten minutes, Caleb Kennedy and Shane Merryman teamed up down low to account for HU’s first 11 points to stay even with the Cougars at the 11:04 mark.
Things remained close the rest of the half as neither team gained more than a four-point advantage but it was USF’s bench that came up big by scoring 19 points in the first twenty minutes to give the Cougars a slim 34-33 lead at halftime.
Ryan Boester opened the second half by knocking down two freebies and draining a three to give HU their biggest lead of the night at 38-34 but it was short-lived as Saint Francis answered with back-to-back treys to push back on top 40-39 with just over 17 minutes remaining.
Sixty seconds later Qadr Owens, who led the Cougars with 15 points, cashed in on two free throws to give USF a lead that wouldn’t be relinquished. They pulled ahead by as many as 11 points before cruising to the seven-point victory.
Reminiscent of this MCC rivalry, both teams made their living at the free throw line. The Foresters made good on 21 of 24 attempts for 87.5% while the Cougars went 23-for-29 for 79.3%. USF owned a 40-35 advantage on the boards while both teams finished with 11 miscues.
Kennedy, TJ Short and Nick Teeter each finished with 13 points to pace the Foresters. Merryman chipped in 12 points and snagged a game-high 10 boards for his third double double of the season and Boester tossed in 12 to round out HU’s double digit scoring. In addition to Owen’s 15 points, Seth Small and Scott Kohne came of the Cougar bench to score 14 points apiece.
Huntington (6-2, 0-1) is back in action on Saturday when they host Kuyper College at 3:00 p.m.