(South Bend, Ind.) Yama Kader (Mission Viejo, Cali.) returning to the starting lineup, paired with a fast 7-to-0 run to open the game against the crosstown rival Indiana University-South Bend Titans had everything coming together for the Saints early on in this matchups series finale. The Titans, however, rallied behind senior Steven Heatherly's 25 point performance to down the Saints 75-53 and ending the current three-game win streak over the Titans.
The Saints came out early in Thursday night's contest with tremendous energy on both the offensive and defensive ends. Scoring buckets inside, paired with big blocks on the defensive end had the momentum clearly favoring the visitors. A no-look assist from Dane Okuda (Huntington Beach, Cali.) to a cutting Parker Dominguez (Santa Clarita, Cali.) gave the Saints a 13-6 lead at the 13:32 mark in the first half. After a couple of missed opportunities to extend the lead, the Titans would slowly battle back and take their first lead of the game with 5:22 left in the half.
After Mike Vander Ploeg (Kalamazoo, Mich.) knotted the game at 21 apiece, an ensuing 13-to-4 run by IUSB suddenly had the Saints trailing by nine at the break. An electric start that had the Saints leading for the first ten minutes of the half suddenly saw them trailing by a fairly large margin.
The Saints opened up the second half with a basket from sophomore Clayton Webb (Dallas, Tex.) cutting the Titans lead to just 7. A 13-to-2 run by the Titans over the next five minutes suddenly had the Saints trailing by 18 points with 14:38 left to play. The hole the Saints found themselves suddenly in was something they couldn't dig themselves out of. Long possessions led to eventual easy buckets for IUSB and the Saints struggled to capitalize on their opportunities.
A 13 point second half from Titans guard Steven Heatherly hampered the Saints comeback as he constantly hit big shots to extend the lead. Heatherly finished with a game-high 25 points.
The Titans avenged their loss to the Saints at McKenna Arena in November with a 75-53 win.
Yama Kader made his return to the Saints lineup after missing the last seven games with an injured hand. Kader finished with 5 points on 1-of-9 shooting. Brandon Evans (Grand Rapids, Mich.) led the Saints with 16 points and 7 rebounds.
"I thought we came out with great energy to open the game and really took control," said head coach Bob Schermerhorn. "Some missed opportunities hurt us from extending the lead and IUSB came back and really played well over the last 25 minutes. We need to do a better job of making the most of our opportunities."
The Saints, 10-9 (6-8 CCAC), will return to McKenna Arena on Saturday with a big matchup against Olivet Nazarene. Tip-off is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. EST.