JOLIET – Looking to avenge a close early-season loss to St. Ambrose University on Wednesday afternoon at the Sullivan Center, the University of St. Francis men’s basketball team came up just short again as St. Ambrose University remained perfect in Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference play with a 63-62 victory.
In a matchup featuring two teams receiving votes in the latest NAIA Coaches’ Poll, St. Ambrose improved to 8-2 overall and 3-0 in league play, while the Saints fell to 8-4 and 1-1 in the conference.
Both teams began the rematch fighting for advantage as the opening ten minutes featured three ties. But a 16-2 run by St. Ambrose over a six-minute span in which the Saints converted just one field goal in ten attempts, including going 0-for-7 from long range turned a 21-20 deficit for the guests into a 36-23 lead. The dryspell for USF led to a 31.3 percent shooting mark from the field (10-of-32), including just three treys in 16 attempts (18.8 percent) for the half resulting in a 39-28 deficit at the break.
But as they have done all season long, the Saints would not let a double-digit deficit deter them. Trailing by as many as 14 points with 13:59 remaining in the contest, head coach Ryan Marks’ club went out and matched an earlier 11-0 St. Ambrose run with one of its own. Carter Fayhee (JR/Macomb, Ill.) would knock down a three to get the Saints’ to within three points, 51-48, with 9:43 left in the contest. The Saints would continue their climb back from there, eventually tying the game at 55-all with 5:24 left on a pair of Eric Ting (SR/Taoyuan, Taiwan) free throws.
St. Ambrose responded with the next five points and would never trail again despite the Saints having four different chances in the closing 4:24 to force the fifth tie of the contest. USF would get as close as 60-59 with 49 seconds to play and in the game’s final score on a Joey Buggemi (JR/Frankfort, Ill.) three-pointer at the buzzer.
Buggemi finished the afternoon as the Saints’ leading scorer, knocking down 17 points. He also provided four of the nine total three-point field goals for USF, which shot just 35.5 percent (21-of-59) for the game. Deandre Johnson (SR/Watts, Calif.) also finished in double figures in the scoring column. Johnson provided 11 points off the bench and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.
St. Ambrose shot 45 percent from the field and was once again led by John Kerr, who scored 20 points and hauled in 15 rebounds. The 6-7 senior center finished with 21 points in the first matchup – a 61-56 decision on Dec. 16 – against the Saints. Ben Schols and Jake Friel also finished in double-figure scoring with 18 and 13 points, respectively.
The Saints move forward to Palos Heights on Saturday afternoon to take on Trinity Christian in another CCAC matchup. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m.