WICHITA, Kan. – Five seconds may not seem like much, but in the game of basketball it’s enough to change everything.
When the Rattlers walked onto the court of Newman University on Saturday, they knew a game of intense basketball was in store: both undefeated teams were fighting to stay perfect in Heartland Conference.
The 200 minutes of play never went dull, and as the Rattlers thought they had their fifth-straight conference win in the bag, a foul brought the Jets to the line for a follow-through that stunted the Rattlers’ perfect streak, falling 76-74 on the road.
Although down the line the game came down to the final five seconds, the Rattlers (10-5, 4-1 in conference) performed like they usually do throughout with three starters hitting double-digits. Kevin Kotzur (Jr., La Vernia, Texas) and Lamb Autrey (Sr., Cibolo, Texas) led with 18 points apiece, followed by Ray Marshall (Sr., El Paso) with 14. Joe Monroe (RS-Fr., San Antonio) came off strong from the bench to post up for a career-high 11 points (4 of 5 from the floor) in nine minutes of play.
St. Mary’s and Newman (11-4, 4-0 in conference) equally challenged each other throughout, leaving no clear-cut victor with the score tied eight times and the lead changing 13 times throughout the game. The Rattlers led by as much as eight four minutes before halftime, but it was short-lived as Newman came back within three before the buzzer, 45-42. The Rattlers were able to keep a steady four-to-six point led over Newman for the first 10 minutes of the second half, but the game went back to the lead switching back and forth as seen in the first half.
With a minute remaining, a foul brought the Jets to the line to gain the lead at 73-72. The teams then exchanged jumpers, bringing the score to 75-74 30 seconds later. Five seconds remained and a whistle that sounded Marshall’s fifth foul brought the Jets to the line again, where they close out the battle with another make, bringing the score to 76-74.
The Rattlers’ 22 personal fouls to Newman’s 12 seemed to be the Achilles heel for St. Mary’s – as was the Jets’ Shamar Acuay, who came off the bench to score 20 points in 21 minutes with three 3-pointers.
Although the Rattlers’ undefeated status in conference came to an end Saturday, they still rank high, holding the No.2 spot in the conference standings behind Newman with good odds of remaining at the top throughout the rest of the season.
St. Mary’s comes home Thurs., Jan. 19 to face the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith at Bill Greehey Arena at 5:30 p.m.