San Antonio – The second-best team in the country’s brush with the Rattlers nearly had them leaving Bill Greehey Arena with their heads held low.
The Rattlers just missed the upset of Division II, falling by only four to the undefeated, No. 2-ranked Washburn Ichabods in the first day of St. Mary’s Thanksgiving Classic, losing 67-63 Friday evening before nearly 350 fans.
The Ichabods’ (4-0) preseason prep of competing against high-profile Division I teams in the Big 12 – including Kansas State University, Oklahoma University and the University of Kansas – did not give them the advantage over the Rattlers (2-1), who gave the nationally ranked team a run and their first deficit of the regular season.
Kevin Kotzur (RS-Sr., La Vernia, Texas) packed in his third straight double-double of the season with 12 boards and 16 points Friday, while Daryell Taylor (Sr., Houston) led with 20 points, his third straight contest of breaking double-digits.
Proving from the jump they could compete, the Rattlers’ Fred Wilson (Jr., Seattle) sank a 3-pointer followed by Taylor’s first jumper of the night, giving St. Mary’s a quick 5-0 lead, marking the first time the Ichabods have trailed in the regular season. A well-fought battle continued for the remainder of the half with St. Mary’s down by just two at the buzzer.
Charged and motivated to pull off the upset, the Rattlers again took hold of the lead several times throughout the second half, forcing the game to come down to clutch free throws in heightened play. But two points were the disparity again as the Rattlers were outscored 37-35 in the second.
Key differences proved to be the downfall of St. Mary’s, including their 22 turnovers to Washburn University’s eight. The Ichabods shot nearly twice as many free throws with 28 to the Rattlers’ 15, the only shooting category in which they bested St. Mary’s. The Rattlers outshot the Ichabods in fielding percentage (49-39.3) and 3-pointers (45.5-40), but their just-above-50 percentage at the line might have been the block for the victory.
However, the Rattlers have much to take from the high-caliber Ichabods in a game that sized them up well, as St. Mary’s gave them a challenge until the very end.
“It’s like a measuring tool for us,” said Taylor, who hit three from behind the arc Friday. “It shows us what we are as a team. It’s early in the season and we understand we got a lot of basketball left to play so it’s good to play these kind of teams. It was good to put their talent against our talent to see what we had at this given time. I’m not satisfied with the results, but I felt like we got better today.”
Rounding out St. Mary’s trek to upsetting the nationally ranked Ichabods included Brad Hubenak (RS-Sr., Kennedale, Texas) totaling eight points followed by Wilson and Mark Simmons (Jr., Tucson, Ariz.) with five apiece. Starting point guard Christian Bower (Jr., Chandler, Ariz.) added four assists.
The Rattlers will have to bounce back quickly as they conclude the St. Mary’s Thanksgiving Classic Saturday against Angelo State University at Bill Greehey Arena at 7:30 p.m.
“It’s still about business,” said Taylor, who shot 8 of 12. “We can’t hang our heads at all, we’ve got to remain focused.”