Unranked Cougars pull off second consecutive NAIA Top 25 upset with win over #6 Wildcats
FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- Two solid halves added up to another whole upset victory for the University of Saint Francis in an 89-73 over sixth-ranked Indiana Wesleyan University on a Tuesday night in the Crossroads League where the top four teams suffered upsets.
The Cougars (17-10, 9-6 CL) tripped up the Wildcats (22-5, 11-4 CL) with balanced scoring led by Scott Kohne, solid defense and 55 percent shooting. USF doubled its fun with its second consecutive Top 25 upset after an 80-79 upset at then No. 13 Bethel on Saturday.
Kohne registered his 15th double-double of the season with 22 points and 15 rebounds, Kevin Bloom scored 20 points including 16 in the final 20 minutes, sophomore Josh Hogan added 18 points and senior Ethan Hussey scored 11 points and dished out six assists. The Cougars improved to 6-2 against NAIA Top 25 teams this season.
IWU senior Patrick Hopkins matched Kohne's double-double total with his 15th -- 23 points, 18 rebounds -- and Jordan Weidner added 21 points.
USF never trailed to avenge an 85-77 loss at then No. 4 IWU back on Jan. 15. The Wildcats got as close as 3-2 and 5-4 before the Cougars opened up a 14-5 lead with a 9-1 surge. Hogan buried a 3-pointer at 13:44 for the nine-point lead that forced at IWU timeout. Kohne, Hogan and Brad Sneary pushed USF's lead to 13, 20-7, at 11:32, and the Cougars continued to add to their lead surging in front 31-16 with 8:42 to play.
"We came out aggressive and scoring early and often gave us confidence on both sides of the ball," USF Head Coach Chad LaCross said. "I think there was definitely carry over from our win at Bethel."
The Wildcats, who lost their second consecutive game to an unranked opponent, challenged the Cougars' resolve with a 10-0 run that slashed the IWU deficit to 31-26 on a Weidner 3-pointer with 5:08 to play. Kohne hit 1-of-2 shots from the free-throw line to cool off the Wildcats and USF rebuilt the lead to nine, 43-34, when Hogan scored on an unmolested layup just before the end of the first half.
"Our confidence was evident the way we responded to their run in the first half and in the second half as well," LaCross said. "We did a good job of maintaining our poise and executing our game plan."
The Wildcats, who lead the series 46-44 after the 90th meeting, crept as close as five, 65-60, when Weidner converted a 3-point play with 10:46 to play. That was as close as IWU got in the second half.
Hogan connected on two free throws at 10:28 for a 67-60 lead and the Cougars gradually built its largest lead of the game at 18, 84-66, before settling for the 16-point verdict.
"It's a crazy conference because on any given night, any team in the Crossroads League can beat any other team," Kohne said after hearing the top four teams had been beaten on Tuesday night. "You always expect the unexpected. We've been playin' terrible at home the last couple Tuesday's, so we just concentrated comin' out and gettin' a good start, and we did, and we never let up."
Kohne connected on 8-of-12 shots for the game including a 6-for-7 first half. He had 15 points at halftime, seven in the second half so he was glad to see Bloom knock down a 3-pointer and hit 11-of-12 free throws in the final 20 minutes.
"He's been solid all year and he hit his open shots and finished at the free throw line," Kohne said. "Everybody is playing with confidence and we're a good team when we play confident."
"We just wanted to attack, get to the basket, and I was able to take some of the pressure to score off Scott and Josh," Bloom said. "We were gettin' open looks because the doubled hard on Scott and when we get reversals and attack, we're a pretty good offensive team. Free throws have been our Achilles heel at times this year, but I felt confident at the line the more I got there. We want to carry over our play the last two games into our game up at Grace."
LaCross was pleased with the play of Spencer Comer, who came in for Sneary when he was whistled for his fifth foul with 5:30 to play.
"Kyle (Sovine) gave us some good minutes until he fouled out and Spencer made some good plays on both ends of the floor," LaCross said.
Bloom wasn't worried.
"Spencer is just as strong in there, he's a brute and knew he could come in and play solid on Hopkins and then Scott would be able to help," Bloom said. "Spencer did a great job of rebounding, playing physical. I wasn't worried when Brad and Kyle fouled out."
USF finished 25-for-38 shooting from the free-throw line, 18-for-26 (.692) in the second half. The Cougars outscored the Wildcats 17-8 at the free-throw line for the game. While USF connected on 29-of-53 shots for .547 shooting, IWU shot .455 on 30-for-66 shooting. USF finished with a 39-35 rebounding advantage.
"I see we had 21 assists and that's good indicator that we are playing unselfishly, finding the open man or a better shot, and then executing," LaCross said. "I'm proud of the way we moved the ball and it was fun to watch. We came out with great intensity, played to our strengths, forced them to defend, and played well with the lead.
"Josh did a great job of readin' the floor and takin' what was there," LaCross added. "He didn't force anything. When they closed the gap, we had guys step up and make plays. Kyle stepped up and Spencer came in and made defensive play after defensive play."
USF returns to action on Saturday at No. 25 Grace College at 3 p.m.