San Antonio – Armed with the bitter taste of a two-game losing streak, the St. Mary’s men’s basketball team wasn’t about to let that number slip to three Thursday night.
Especially not against rival St. Edward’s.
Hitting seven of eight from the foul stripe over the final minute, the Rattlers held on to a 72-67 win in the “Battle of the Saints” series, prevailing at Bill Greehey Arena with a late surge that broke open a 63-63 tie with 3:08 left.
Point guard Christian Bower (Jr., Chandler, Ariz.) led the way with 18 points – eight of which came over the final seven minutes – and four assists, while Kevin Kotzur (Sr., La Vernia, Texas) chipped in 16 points and 13 rebounds.
Daryell Taylor (Sr., Houston) added 12, while Moses Sundufu (Sr., Hopkins, Minn.) chipped in nine and seven boards to help the Rattlers overcome a one-time nine-point deficit in the first half.
“We were coming off a tough weekend,” said head coach Jim Zeleznak, whose squad improved to 11-3 with a 4-2 Heartland Conference mark. “We didn’t play particularly well (against Newman) and lost a game we really should have won. We got off to a sluggish start in this game; credit St. Edward’s, they had a lot of energy. But we had some people pick us off the bench when we were down eight or nine.”
Coming off the bench for the first time this season, Isaiah Matthews (RS-So., Texas City, Texas) scored nine points to go along with four rebounds and one block, helping ignite the Rattlers whenever they were in need of that spark. Mark Simmons, Fred Wilson and John Roberts – just to name a few – also played valuable minutes, providing the kind of energy needed to match St. Edward’s tone.
St. Mary’s trailed 26-17 with six minutes left in the first half, but a big run left them down just 33-32 at the break.
The Rattlers took just their second lead of the night on a Bower layup three minutes into the second half, putting them up 40-38. That lead swelled to six midway through the frame, up until St. Edward’s clawed back to tie things up at 63-63 with just over three minutes left.
A Kotzur basket put the Rattlers back in front, 65-63, and then they went to work at the foul stripe to extend the lead and eventually put the game away.
St. Mary’s will return to the court Saturday, when it hosts McMurry at 4 p.m. at Bill Greehey Arena.