Moses Sundufu drives to the bucket for two. (Photo by Antonio Morano Photography)
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SAN ANTONIO — The St. Mary’s Rattlers were able to seal their rivalry with Incarnate Word on Tuesday, sweeping the season series for the second straight year.
And maybe for good.
A thunderous crowd of 914 inside Bill Greehey Arena saw the likely end to StMU-UIW’s storied, 26-year rivalry, with the Rattlers’ men’s basketball team overtaking the game, 71-61.
The Rattlers (5-1) end the overall series with the Cardinals (4-4) with a 40-26 edge, proving Tuesday that their work on the court continued to overpass the Cardinals as well as it ever has.
Four Rattlers broke double-digits in the win, with Daryell Taylor (Sr., Houston) leading with 14 points followed by Isaiah Matthews (RS-So., Texas City, Texas) with 13. Moses Sundufu (Sr., Hopkins, Minn.) added 12 and Kevin Kotzur (RS-Sr., La Vernia, Texas) barely missed his sixth double-double in as many games, finishing with 10 points and nine rebounds.
But the game wasn’t an easy take for the Rattlers, as the Cardinals hedged St. Mary’s a few times throughout the game and threatened to end the Rattlers’ two-year win streak, striking within four with just a minute left in the game, down 65-61.
“They’re a good team,” says Sundufu, who led the team in assists and steals with three. “And they’re a tough team to guard.”
The second half got off to a shaky start for the Rattlers, as a quick foul left UIW in the bonus eight minutes into the half. However, the Cardinals’ barely shot above 50 percent at the line, ruining their chances to close in on the Rattlers. St. Mary’s was streaky at the line, but finished strong, hitting six straight foul shots in the final 26 seconds to silence any chance at overtime.
The Rattlers’ double-digit victory left several heart stoppages throughout, as most of the game was tight with St. Mary’s leading 30-25 at the half.
“Nobody wants close games,” says Sundufu, who pulled in six defensive boards. “It’s just that we still have a lot of things we need to work on so we need to focus more on that. Sometimes we don’t play very well the whole 40 minutes. We need to focus on playing the whole 40 minutes and not, like, 15 minutes.”
The end result Tuesday was a successful and energizing close to the StMU-UIW rivalry, making St. Mary’s season record of 5-1 that much more sparkling.
Could this rivalry someday renew itself? Perhaps. But for now, the Rattlers will walk away from their longtime foe in a familiar spot — as the victor.
St. Mary’s will go for 6-1 in their next match up against Dallas Christian College on Saturday. Game time is set for 2 p.m. at Bill Greehey Arena.
St. Mary’s University, as a Catholic Marianist University, fosters the formation of people in faith and educates leaders for the common good through community service, integrated liberal arts and professional education, and academic excellence. The University has six athletic national titles: men’s basketball (1989–NAIA), baseball (2001–NCAA Div. II), softball (1986–NAIA and 2002–NCAA Div. II) and an individual national champion in men’s golf (2006–NCAA Div. II) and a national academic championship in men’s golf (2009–NCAA Div. II). St. Mary’s also had more than 40 percent of its athletes named to conference, regional and/or national honor rolls this past year. St. Mary’s student–athletes graduation rate is 65 percent, higher than the NCAA Division II average of 55 percent. To learn more about St. Mary's, visit www.stmarytx.edu/athletics.