(Notre Dame, Ind.) The Saints played host to No. 5 ranked Cardinal Stritch University on Wednesday night in front of a "blackout" crowd at McKenna Arena. A slow start offensively countered the Saints productive second half where they outscored the Wolves 38-33. Holy Cross fell to Wolves 68-52 for their fifth consecutive loss; their longest losing streak of the season.
The start of Wednesday night's contest in front of a packed McKenna Arena didn't go as smoothly as they Saints would have liked facing a first place and top five nationally ranked opponent.
Despite trading baskets just minutes into the half, Cardinal Stritch would use a 24-to-4 run to open up a 20 point advantage over the Saints with just over four minutes left to play in the half.
Missed shots and second chance opportunities would haunt the Saints over the game's first twenty minutes as they went just 7-for-24 (29.2%) from the floor and were outrebounded 27-9. More importantly, the Saints found themselves trailing the Wolves 35-14 at the break.
The Saints received scoring production from just four players in the first half led by Darrell McIntyre's (Indianapolis, Ind.) 6 points.
With the final 20 minutes underway, the Saints slowly began chipping into the large lead of the Wolves. A layup from Parker Dominguez (Santa Clarita, Cali.) got the Saints deficit to under 20 points five minutes into the half.
Trailing by 25 with 12:56 left to play, the Saints turned in a 23-to-8 run to make it a ten point game after Mike Vander Ploeg (Kalamazoo, Mich.) capped off an and-one play with 4:21 remaining.
After forcing a Stritch turnover on the ensuing possession, the Saints had a chance to cut the Wolves lead to single digits for the first time since early in the first half. An ensuing turnover, however, was capped off with a three-pointer by Chad Mazur that brought the lead back up to 13 points with just under two minutes left of action.
Mike Vander Ploeg would once again finish a three-point play to make it a 60-50 game, but that would be the closest the Saints would get for the remainder of the game.
Timely free-throws by Stritch helped them close out the game with a 68-52 win over the Saints giving them their fifth consecutive loss.
"Obviously the first half was not what we had in mind," said head coach Bob Schermerhorn. "I was pleased, however, with the resolve the team played with in the second half. Cardinal Stritch is a top tier program who spent a majority of the season ranked No. 1 nationally. We were able to beat them in the second half but that first half really put us back. This final stretch of games is extremely important for us to finish out strong."
The Saints shot the ball much better in the second half as they went 13-for-28 (46.4%) increasing their game total to 38.5% from the floor.
Mike Vander Ploeg really sparked the Saints second half comeback scoring all of his team high 14 points in the final 20 minutes. Vander Ploeg also finished with 5 rebounds and 5 assists.
Parker Dominguez finished with 7 points and a game-high 9 rebounds.
The Saints, 10-13 (6-12 CCAC), will return to McKenna Arena for their final non-conference matchup of the season on Saturday, January 26th as they are set to take on the Cardinals of Andrews University. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EST.