FORT WAYNE, Ind. – After a devastating loss on Monday night, the No. 24 University of Saint Francis Cougars (15-4; 2-4 Crossroads) played host to the No. 8 Marian University Knights (9-2; 5-1 Crossroads) Wednesday evening in Hutzell Athletic Center, but could not regain their winning ways as they fell 81-74.
Defense was strong and the offense was slow in the first half. The game started as a back and forth battle through the first six minutes. With the score tied at 11, junior forward Jeff Reynolds gave the Cougars a 13-11 lead with a layup and they held on to the lead from there through the frame.
Through the final 13 minutes of the first half, the Cougars held their lead over the Knights despite Marian's resilience. Saint Francis led 31-26 as the game went to halftime.
During the first half the Cougars held the No. 8 Knights' offense to a shooting percentage of 35 from the floor, and just 1-for-12 from beyond the three-point line while junior guard Antwaan Cushingberry scored 10 points in the frame.
At the start of the second half, the Knights began chipping away at the lead though the Cougars remained steady. The Knights finally caught up and took the lead on a made three-pointer at 16:46 on the clock, and the next several minutes saw both teams exchange blows.
Unfortunately for the Cougars, they lost the lead for good with 14 minutes remaining. Though they stayed close and continued to fight the Knights tooth and nail, Marian proved too much to overcome as the Cougars were dealt the loss.
"They (Marian) know what they want to do, they have an identity, and they did a much better job on the boards than we did," Head Coach Chad LaCross said. "We need to have a more consistent effort on the boards, it's a concern that we need to immediately address moving forward, but we also feel like we have a coachable group that will work on getting better."
Throughout the game the Cougars shot 47 percent from the floor, 29 percent from beyond the arc, and 85 percent from the free throw line. Cushingberry led the team in points with 21with five rebounds, while junior guard Jalan Mull and sophomore forward David Ejah scored double-digits and each had a team-leading eight rebounds.
With Saturday's game against the Taylor University Trojans postponed, the Cougars resume play on Monday evening when they return home to Hutzell to face off against the No. 1 Indiana Wesleyan University Wildcats (18-1; 6-1 Crossroads) starting at 7:00 pm.