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Foresters suffer 96-89 loss to SXU on opening day

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HUNTINGTON, Ind. - The Huntington men’s basketball team opened up its season Wednesday night at Platt Arena with a 96-89 loss to an offensively potent Saint Xavier University crew.

The Cougars shot 57.1 percent (36-for-63) which included draining 12 triples to establish a lead from opening tip-off that they gave up just once early in the contest after Tyler Arens knocked down his first of three long balls for a 6-5 HU advantage four minutes into the night.

Jared Jones countered with back-to-back threes and a traditional three-point play by Chris Soczek capped off a 9-0 SXU run in a 90-second span allowing the visitors to reclaim the lead at 14-6.  Ten minutes later, the Cougars still owned an eight-point advantage.

It looked like the tides might turn when Kyle Platt scored and was fouled on a fast break dunk. The senior forward completed the three-point play to trim the lead to four at 39-35 by the 3:03 mark. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be as Quinn Niego spearheaded another Cougar run to close out the half to extend the lead to double digits at 53-40 by intermission.

Niego finished the period with 17 points, which included going 5-for-5 behind the arc. Mike Bush was just as effective through the opening 20 minutes by pouring in 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting while Arens added 12.  

SXU’s lead remained in double digits for the first 15 minutes of the second half. Zac Owens finally dipped the lead to nine, 83-74, on a driving layup at the 5:26 mark. Twice after that, the difference stood at just six points but the Foresters would get no closer as the Cougars improved to 1-1 while HU starts the year at 0-1.

After his 18-point first half performance, Bush added ten more points but turned his attention to distributing the basketball as he dished out six assists in the second period to finish with 28 points and a game-best seven assists.

Bush’s main target was Arens as evidenced by his monster second half. The 6-8 forward poured in 23 to finish with a career-best 35 points to go along with a career-high 13 rebounds, seven of which were offensive, for the double double.  

A pair of rookies in Owens and Junior Scott came off the bench to register seven points each in their college debut.

As a team, the Foresters finished 32-for-64 from the field for 50.0 percent. They connected on 19 of their 29 free throw attempts for 65.5 percent. Behind Arens' 13 boards, HU outrebounded the Cougars 37-34. Turnovers were a wash as HU committed eight to SXU’s seven.

Niego topped Saint Xavier with 25 points and 11 rebounds. Soczek added 18 while Jaelon Wilson came off the bench to record 14 and Kevin Fervil finished with ten.

Next up for Coach Platt’s crew is another home game against Concordia University (MI) on Saturday 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.