Brenten Couch, Assistant Sports Information Director
JOLIET – A late start to today’s game made for a dramatic back and forth competition in this conference clash between the Tigers and the Fighting Saints of University of St. Francis.
ONU came away with a 100-97 overtime victory over USF.
The Tigers got off to a hot start by stacking up a nine-point lead before the Saints even made their first basket. CJ Smith (SR/Cumming, Ga.) hit the ground running again by getting the scoring started with an early layup. Cade Chitty (JR/White Heath, Ill.) followed up with a layup of his own and led the Tigers with nine points in the half. After the strong start, the Tigers would struggle from the field, which allowed the Fighting Saints to play their way back into the game. At one point, the Tigers trailed by as much as 13, but late three-pointers from Smith and John Contant(SR/Hickory Hills, Ill.) would make the deficit more manageable as the teams made it into halftime.
To open up the second half, the Tigers stormed back into the game with instant offense from Contant and Alex Gross (JR/Hope, Ind.). After tying the game at 49, the teams exchanged blows until the Fighting Saints came up with a couple of big shots to regain a nine-point lead with eight minutes remaining. As the half progressed, the duo of Contant and Gross scored at will to give the Tigers a fighting chance. With three minutes remaining, Tyler Schmidt (FR/Valparaiso, Ind. ) found Contant cutting towards the hoop which would swing the lead back in favor of the Tigers. After exchanging the lead two more times before the end of regulation, a trip to the free throw line from Gross would send the game into overtime.
In overtime, the Tigers held their nerve and let Contant continue to run free as he tallied a new career-high with 42 points. This smashes his previous best of 30 points in a single game, which he recorded earlier this season when the Tigers faced off against St. Francis (Indiana). In other news, Gross is one-point shy of joining the 1,000 point club at ONU and recorded his seventh double-double of the season. All-in-all, the Tigers put together a great team win on the back of some phenomenal individual efforts.