The same old bug-a-boo came back to bite the St. Ambrose University men's basketball team on Wednesday night as the Fighting Bees dropped a tough 69-66 Midwest Collegiate Conference decision to Viterbo.|
"We play great for 31 or 32 minutes, but the other eight is just a cluster," said SAU coach Ray Shovlain.
That pretty much summed up SAU's third straight MCC setback to start league play. At 0-3, the 6-11 Fighting Bees now are left fighting for their league lives in the shortened 12-game MCC race.
Wednesday's cluster at Lee Lohman Arena started when the hosts stretched their lead on the V-Hawks (11-8, 2-0 MCC) to 50-37 with 14:05 left in the game on Darren Galloway's 3-pointer.
From that point, though, Viterbo rattled off the next 19 points to take a 56-50 lead with 7:40 remaining. SAU pulled to within one on four occasions after that, but never could get a tie or the lead.
Moline's Justin Blondell (two points in the game) mis-fired on a 26-foot 3-point attempt on which he pulled the trigger way too soon after Viterbo's Jordan Laufenberg split a pair of free throws with :10.8 left that gave the hosts hope.
"That (19-0) run was basically the difference in the game," said Shovlain. "We're up 13 points and go down (six). We just couldn't score. I thought we had some pretty good looks. We didn't make those buckets and then took some ill-advised shots and at the same time we turned the ball over. It just compounded the other issues.''
Other costly issues were was SAU's inability to grab key rebounds and newcomer T.Y. Deal (team-high 15 points ahead of Michael Knoll's 12 and Nick Frazier's 10) cramping up late in the game and missing extended periods of play, along with missing a couple of key free throws.
One of the biggest turning points came when SAU had gained some momentum, cutting a 60-54 deficit to 60-58 on buckets by Sam Ainsworth (eight points) and Frazier. Viterbo missed with the shot clock running down, but grabbed a rebound that led to Alex Koeller's 3-pointer from the top of the key with 2:50 left for a 63-58 spread.
"Them coming out 0-2, we knew we were in for a hornets' nest, no pun intended," said Viterbo coach Wayne Wagner. "We knew they didn't want to get down 0-3 to start the league. ... Our guys just kept their composure in that second half. ... We've got a little more experience this year, been through some of these things and responded the right way."
All but 13 of Viterbo's points came from starters with Cole Lewis throwing in 13 of his team-high 15 points in the second half. Izac Sheforgen added 14 with Matt Turba and Koeller each adding 11.
SAU out-rebounded the V-Hawks 30-28, with Bettendorf's Michael Thompson (six points) and Deal each grabbing six.