Marcus Taliaferro, Athletic Communication Assistant
JOLIET – The University of St. Francis men’s basketball were able to open up 2021 with a hard-fought victory over Lincoln thanks to Russell Tillery’s(Sr/Portland, Ore) team-leading 17 points Saturday afternoon at the Sullivan Center.
The win upped USF’s overall record to 7-2 making this game their third straight victory and their sixth straight victory at home. The victory also notches the first overall win for the Saints against Lincoln who will fall to 1-3 overall this season.
The Linx got off to a strong start leading by much as 12 points in the opening ten minutes of the game. USF began to carve into Lincoln’s lead by forcing turnovers and finishing tough baskets in the paint. Momentum began to shift towards the Saints side when guard Nadav Gerner(Fr/Ganei Tikva, Isreal) connected with E.J Charles(So/Mokena, Ill) for a jaw-dropping alley-oop that would cut Lincoln’s lead down to 2 with 7:32 left to go in the first half. The Saints and Linx would battle for the lead until the Saints began to pull away towards the end of the half. Guard Carlos Tovaias(Sr/Corsicana, Tx) would convert a layup and give the Saints a 37-30 lead with 38 seconds to go in the half. The seven-point advantage was the largest lead for the Saints as they would end the half leading 38-32.
The Saints defense held Lincoln to only one three-point field goal in the first half. The Saints also held the Linx to a 41%(14-34) shooting performance. USF shot 56%(14-25) from the field in the first half and capitalized on Lincoln’s first-half foul troubles as they shot 75%(9-12) from the free-throw line.
The Second-half featured fast-paced scoring from both teams and outstanding defensive play from the Saints. Lincoln and USF traded baskets for a second-half that saw four lead changes and five ties. The Saints would pull away late in the second half after Russell Tillery successfully found Joey Buggemi(Jr/Frankfort, Ill) for a clutch wide-open three-point shot that would put the Saints up 72-67 with 2:01 remaining. Despite the two-possession advantage, Lincoln would close the gap to two with 54 seconds to go after a DeAndre Freeman three-point shot. Deandre Johnson (Sr/Watts, Calif) would knock down a layup and put the Saints back up by 4 with 31 seconds remaining. A defensive stop and clutch free-throw shooting from Gerner and Tillery would give the Saints an 80-72 victory.
Joey Buggemi and Deandre Johnson would be the other two players that joined Tillery in double-figure scoring in this afternoon’s contest. Johnson finished with 12 points and four rebounds. Johnson also knocked down all six of the free-throws he attempted tonight. Buggemi finished with ten points and three rebounds shooting 4-6 from the field and 2-4 from the three-point line. The Saints outrebounded Lincoln 34 to 31 including a 25 to 19 advantage on the defensive glass. Aitor Anabitarte(Fr/Lasarte-Oria, Spain) was a big help in the rebounding department as he grabbed a team-high seven rebounds over Lincoln’s tall defenders. Anabitarte also blocked a game-high two shots in this afternoon’s victory.
As a team, the Saints shot 50% (27-53) from the field and 43%(7-16) from the three-point line. The Saints finished shooting 82%(19-23) from the free-throw line taking advantage of the 21 fouls that were committed by Lincoln. The Saints finished the game allowing only 4-20(20%) Lincoln three-point field goals.
DeAndre Freeman finished with a game-high 19 points and was one of three Linx in double figures. PeeWee Brown and Connor Fuller both finished the game with 15 points. Center Tyler Clarke had a game-high nine rebounds.
The Saints face a tough task Tuesday (Jan. 5) as they look to welcome the number five nationally-ranked Arizona Christian in an afternoon matchup at the Sullivan Center. A 2 p.m Tip-off is scheduled for this first-ever matchup between two NAIA opponents.