DENTON – St. Mary’s University hit on just 24-of-45 free throws, but made the shots that counted, making seven-of-12 in the final 1:10 of the game to preserve a 62-56 win over the University of the Incarnate Word and advance to the finals of the Heartland Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament, Friday night at the Super Pit.
The Rattlers never trailed in the game, but had a double-digit lead just once in the game, 18-8, with 6:33 left in the first half. St. Mary’s took a nine-point lead with 15:15 left to play on a pair of free throws by Robert Owens (Jr., Oakwood). But Isaiah Bryant hit a three-pointer and Garrett Bell followed with a short jumper to make it a four-point game at 36-32 with 12:37 left to play. A pair of Eric Nuncio free throws cut the Rattler lead to just two with 8:55 left. The Cardinals cut the lead to just one point on a pair of Chris Patterson free throws with 6:53 left to play.
But the Rattlers responded with a 7-0 run, highlighted by five points from Marcus Hill (Sr., Longview) to retake command at 51-43 with 4:57 to play. Soon after the Cardinals started to foul the Rattlers and slowly started to chip away at the Rattler lead again. Another Bell three-pointer cut the lead to just three at 57-54 with 47 seconds left to play. But Lorenzo Anthony (Jr., San Antonio) came back with a pair of free throws to increase the lead to five and the Rattlers held on from there for the win.
Hill led all players with 16 points and five rebounds in the game. Also scoring in double figures was Dominique Richardson (Sr., San Antonio) with 11 points and Anthony with 10 points. As a team the Rattlers shot 40.9 percent (18-44) from the field and 53.3 percent from the free throw line. St. Mary’s outrebounded the Cardinals 38-29.
For UIW Cameron Teague led the way with 12 points, while Patterson and Bell had 11 points each. Even more significant was that leading scorer Pierce Caldwell fouled out with just two points, after entering the game averaging 19.1 per game this season.
The Rattlers held the normally high-scoring Cardinals to just eight field goals in the first half and controlled play in taking a nine-point lead into the locker room. Hill was the catalyst offensively, hitting on 4-of-8 shots from the field to score nine points.
With the win the Rattlers won their fourth straight game and improved to 16-12 overall. Incarnate Word fell to 17-11 overall and likely saw its season end. St. Mary’s will now head to the Heartland Conference Championship game on Saturday, where they will face regular season champion St. Edward’s University at 5:30 p.m. Saturday night in the Super Pit.