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#2 USF pulls away at end to tally 81-71 win over HU

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. - After playing even with the #2 team in the nation in Saint Francis through the opening twenty minutes, the Forester men’s basketball team stayed within striking distance until the waning minutes to suffer an 81-71 loss on the road to the Cougars Tuesday night.

For USF, it marks their 16th straight win as they improve to 17-2 overall and remain unblemished in league play at 7-0 while the loss drops HU to 6-13 overall, 2-5 in CL action. The Foresters’ last three losses have all been to Top 25 teams.

While Platt and crew are hungry for a win, the HU skipper remains optimistic about what’s to come for his squad. “Our effort was tremendous tonight. We had some guys who struggled shooting the ball, but if we play with that kind of energy and focus every time we play, there will be wins coming our way.

“This group will continue to work and persevere together.”  

The first half featured a handful of swings before eventually ending in a stalemate. After trading buckets through the opening three minutes for the first of four ties at 6-6, the Cougars rattled off ten unanswered points in a two-minute span to pull ahead 16-6.

It’s been a frustrating stretch for the Foresters so it would have been easy to throw in the towel but it wasn’t even a fleeting thought for Platt’s squad. Instead, Mason Coverstone stopped the bleeding with an old-fashioned three-point play and so began a 12-4 run topped off with a second and one, this time by Trevor Lockwood, for a 20-18 ball game with just under ten mintues to go in the frame.

Five minutes later, the game was knotted up at 24s after which Lockwood scored on a put back to give HU its first lead of the evening. Huntington enjoyed a lead for the last three minutes of the period before USF cashed in on an HU turnover just before the buzzer to force a 30-30 deadlock heading into intermission.

The final twenty minutes was cleanly play and showcased solid shooting. Both teams shot over sixty percent in the period and combined for only seven miscues. Unfortunately, the Cougars were able to convert Huntington’s five turnovers into 11 points in addition to scoring eight second chance points which proved to be the glaring differences of the half.

Tyler Arens drained one from downtown to open the half to give HU a 33-30 advantage. It was a short-lived lead as the Cougars responded with the next six points. While Huntington wouldn’t lead again, they would go on to force the fourth and final tie, 40-40, with just over 14 minutes on the clock. For all but 60 seconds over the next nine minutes, no more than two possessions separated the two teams.

USF finally created a little breathing room for themselves when Connor Lautzenheiser knocked down his team’s fourth triple of the night for a 69-60 advantage with just over five minutes remaining. Coverstone countered with a three of his own to cut the lead back to six a minute later but execution down the stretch favored the Cougars.

Saint Francis made good on their next five possessions to grow the lead to 14 at 81-67 with under two minutes remaining. They wouldn’t score again, but Huntington was only able to make up four points in those last two minutes to make for the ten-point difference by game’s end.

Bush topped all scorers with 23 points on 10-for-16 shooting. The 5-7 point guard also dished out a game-best three assists and posted two steals. Arens added 17 points. Lockwood finished with nine points while Mason Coverstone and Konner Platt each collected eight. Devon Merder tallied a team-best six rebounds.

Derek Hinen led the Cougars with 22 points. Bryce Lienhoop tossed in 21 while Lautzenheiser chipped in 14. Chandler White enjoyed game-high rebounding honors with seven.

As a team, Huntington shot 48.2 percent from the field (27-for-56) which included eight from deep. They connected on nine of their ten freebies and committed just ten turnovers. Saint Francis sizzled the nets to the tune of 59.6 percent (31-for-52) from the floor and finished 15-for-19 from the line. The hosts recorded 12 turnovers and outrebounded HU 32-20.

HU returns to the friendly confines of Platt Arena on Saturday to host Marian University at 3:00 p.m.

The Huntington University Foresters compete in 17 intercollegiate sports for men and women. In the past decade, Huntington has produced 38 NAIA All-America honors and 274 All-America Scholar Athlete honors. Huntington University is a comprehensive Christian college of the liberal arts offering graduate and undergraduate programs in more than 70 academic concentrations. U.S. News & World Report ranks Huntington among the best colleges in the Midwest.