FORT SMITH, Ark. – Despite five players hitting double-figures and a near-perfect record going into Thursday night’s game against the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith, the St. Mary’s Rattlers couldn’t outgun the Lions.
The Rattlers (10-2, 3-1 in conference) were going for their ninth straight victory, a continued undefeated Heartland Conference record as well as a potential spot in the nation’s Top 25 ranking, putting the target on their backs as one of the best in the league.
It was a target large enough to hit for the Lions (7-6, 3-0 in conference) in a nine-point upset, winning 99-90 on their home court.
The high-scoring game was led by Moses Sundufu (Sr., Hopkins, Minn.) and Fred Wilson (Jr., Seattle) for the Rattlers with 15 points apiece. Christian Bower (Jr., Chandler, Ariz.) added 14 points while Kevin Kotzur (RS-Sr., La Vernia, Texas) and Mark Simmons (Jr., Tucson, Ariz.) each brought in 11 points apiece.
The Lions set the pace from tip-off, pulling away from the Rattlers early, holding St. Mary’s under double-digit points until halfway through the first half. The Rattlers pulled it closer by half, down six, 44-38.
Although the Thursday’s game tallies the second loss on the season for the Rattlers, some prominent stats would seem to prove otherwise.
St. Mary’s nearly outrebounded Arkansas-Fort Smith by double for the game, 41-25, and sparked in the second half to only be outscored by three, 55-52. In addition, 13 of Wilson’s 15 points came in the second half alone and 10 of Bower’s 14 and 10 of Kotzur’s 11 also came from the final half.
However, key discrepancies separated a possible win for the Rattlers. The Rattlers saw a 33-22 foul differential for the game with the Lions going to the line 51 times compared to their 29. With the Rattlers trying to stretch out the game, the Lions went to the line for 10 straight free throws in the final minute of the game that had them win it by nine.
The road won’t get any easier for the Rattlers on their two-game road trip as they play the No.18 nationally ranked Newman Jets next.
St. Mary’s will see if it can slice the Jets’ own undefeated conference record Saturday in Wichita, Kan. at 4 p.m.