By: Bill Scott, Saint Francis (Ind.) Sports Information Director
MARION, Ind. -- Nothing like a 14-0 run to finish the first half and that's what launched 19th-ranked University of Saint Francis to a 72-63 win at second-ranked Indiana Wesleyan University on Saturday afternoon.
USF vaulted to a 40-24 halftime and held off minor threats down the stretch to win its fifth consecutive game to improve to 10-3 overall, 3-0 in Crossroads League play. The Wildcats (9-2, 2-1 in CL play) held on to the No. 2 slot in the first regular season NAIA Division II Coaches' Top 25 released on Tuesday (Dec. 3).
Austin Fox, who posted his fifth double-double of the season with a team-leading 20 points and 10 rebounds, scored six of USF's 14-point first-half finish. He had plenty of support from Josh Hogan, who finished with 18 points, Kegan Comer, who finished with 11 points, Scott Kohne, who grabbed eight rebounds and scored eight points.
USF Head Coach Chad LaCross felt that Spencer Comer was a difference maker coming off the bench.
"Spencer did an excellent job defending (Jordan) Weidner and (RJ) Mahurin," LaCross observed. "He made them work for their points and he knocked down two big 3-pointers. That's the best thing about Spencer, he knows his role, and he was really good today."
Jordan Hahn added seven points and five steals for USF, which has won eight of its last nine games heading into finals week.
"There were four times where we had at least four consecutive stops," USF Head Coach Chad LaCross said. "When we made that big run, they switched to a zone and we got inside the zone, got in the lane and made shots. Attacking was the big key. Our defense was the key. We forced their other guys to take some shots other than (Weidner and Mahurin.
"Fox can get up above the rim and he set the tone early where he just goes and gets it," LaCross said. "He and Scott (Kohne) makes a pretty good combo."
IWU opened up a 13-7 lead, but back-to-back 3-pointers by Hogan and Hahn tied the game at 13. USF continued the run to build a 20-13 lead before the Wildcats battled back to within 26-24. Fox started the USF surge scoring for a 28-24 lead with 3:40 to play in the first half. Fox finished the surge scoring with 50 seconds left in the half for a 16-point halftime advantage.
Spencer Comer's basket with 13:46 to play in the second half put USF in front 55-35 before IWU clawed back to within eight, 61-53 with 6:53 to play. USF countered with an 8-2 run for a 69-55 lead with 2:20 to play and IWU got no closer than nine points in the time left.
USF won despite shooting .360 ( 9 for 25) in the second half. USF did hit two 3-pointers (missed six) and was 12-for-16 at the free throw line in the second half. USF hit 17-of-34 shots in the first half, 4-of-7 from 3-point range. and it was 2-for-2 at the free-throw line. USF had 10 steals to IWU's seven. USF outscored IWU 28-9 off turnovers. IWU outscored USF 39-32 in the second half.
The win was USF's first regular-season win a IWU since 2005-06.
The Cougars head to Florida after finals week for a game next Saturday and Monday.