Santa better make sure that he packs a big bag of whistles on his sleigh this year because the referees who officiated the Roosevelt/Saint Xavier University men’s basketball game Thursday (Dec. 19th) night, wore theirs out.
Seeking its first ‘signature’ win of the year against a ranked opponent, Roosevelt (Lakers) spent the majority of the evening in foul trouble, losing a heart breaker, 68-63, to 10th– ranked Saint Xavier (Cougars) at the Lillian and Larry Goodman Center.
The Cougars seemed to live at the free throw line all night long, attempting 33 shots from the charity stripe opposed to only 10 attempts by the Lakers. But despite that discrepancy, you’ll hear no excuses from the Lakers.
“You can’t turn the ball over 18 times and expect to beat a real good team,” said Roosevelt head coach, Joe Griffin.
Although the turnovers were a bit excessive, the Lakers kept the game close throughout and had a chance to tie the game in the waning seconds. Trailing 66-63, Roosevelt point guard Tyree York fired a potential game-tying 3-pointer with only four seconds to play in regulation, but the iron was unkind and the ball clanged off the back of the rim as the Cougars corralled the offensive rebound, their 12th of the second half.
The Cougars added two free throws to escape with a narrow victory — one that easily could have been won by the home team.
“How about the (missed) layups?” said Griffin. “We had some bunnies (easy shots) that didn’t fall.”
Griffin said that the team needs to get better finishing around the rim and with their ‘touch skills’ — key factors that will turn those close losses into victories.
One player that appeared to have his touch the whole game was junior, Kevin Priebe. The Lakers’
forward scorched the Cougars for 19 points (7-for-14), including 5 3-pointers (5-for-8) to keep Roosevelt within striking distance. His last triple came with just over a minute left in the contest with the team trailing 65-58. After Saint Xavier’s best player, senior Brad Karp, appeared to ‘flop’ while guarding Priebe, the sharpshooter buried a deep three from NBA range, cutting it to 65-61.
Priebe was one of four players — three of them starters — who finished the game with four fouls and knows the team is on the cusp of better days.
“We knew this was a winnable game coming in, we just have to start winning them,”Priebe said. “We’ve got to get better on defense and in our execution … and start beating these ranked teams.”
Although it was a loss, the team may be able to take some solace in the major strides they have made since playing Saint Xavier last year. The Lakers were defeated by the Cougars by over 20 points in both meetings and seem to have sent a message that they are no longer pushovers.
In addition, Roosevelt saw major contributions from its bench as Griffin had to utilize his backups a bit more frequently than usual given the foul situations to his starters. One role player that logged significant minutes after starting 6-foot-6 junior forward Jeremiah Jackson was whistled for his second foul midway through the first half, was junior forward Elliott Vaughn.
Vaughn made his presence known down low, scratching and clawing for five rebounds and logging big minutes while Jackson spent a lengthy spell on the bench.
“Elliott’s our best post defender … he’s a warrior and a gamer,” said Griffin.
Even after Vaughn received his fourth foul with eight minutes left in the game, he was still hustling, contesting shots and motoring up and down the court.
“I think I play the role of a scrappy defender,” Vaughn said. “(playing with four fouls) you are a bit more conservative, but I know that J.J. (Jackson) will come back in and take over.”
But that never came to fruition.
Jackson was held scoreless in the second half due in part to registering his fourth foul with 9:38 to go, forcing Griffin to use him sparingly.
However, the week wasn’t a total loss.
Earlier in the week, Roosevelt picked up their 11th win of the season on Tuesday (Dec. 17th) at Judson University in Elgin, IL. The team got off to a quick 22-7 start and then held on for a 65-62 victory. Jackson scored 21 points and Joe Harks added a double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds).
“Any win on the road is a good win because they’re tough to come by,” Griffin said.
The Lakers (11-3/3-2) will get another crack at defeating a ranked opponent when they host 18th-ranked Cornerstone University, after the holiday break concludes, December 30th at 7p.m.at The Goodman Center.