MEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Falcons eliminated from postseason
Feb 22, 2013 (Odessa American - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Thursday night's Heartland Conference men's basketball game was no more meaningful to St. Edward's than it was to UTPB.
It just seemed like it was, because the Hilltoppers played with a sense of urgency the Falcons couldn't quite match.
In a game both teams had to win to remain in contention for the conference tournament next month, visiting St. Edward's displayed more desire and determination from the opening tip until the final buzzer. The Hilltoppers built a double-digit halftime lead and withstood the Falcons' best shot down the stretch, pulling away for a 93-80 win at the Falcon Dome.
"At the end of the day, we had no toughness, we had no effort and we had no energy," said UTPB coach Dwaine Osborne, whose team suffered its fourth straight loss. "Unfortunately, it's a poor reflection on what we'd like to think our program's about."
St. Edward's (15-14 overall, 4-7 conference), which avenged a loss at home to the Falcons on Jan. 24, raced out to a 40-28 halftime lead by going 15-of-31 from the field and 7-of-13 from 3-point range. The Hilltoppers were even more proficient in the second half, finishing the game 30-of-54 from the floor and 12-of-22 from beyond the arc.
None of their shots were bigger than the ones made by reserve guard John Rutherford midway through the second half. UTPB cut its deficit to 52-48 on a basket by Fabian Sebastian with 12 minutes, 22 seconds remaining, but three straight 3-pointers by Rutherford stretched the lead to 63-48 less than two minutes later.
UTPB (10-12, 5-7) never got within 10 the rest of the way.
"The first time we were up 10 with four minutes to go and blew it," St. Edward's coach Andre Cook said of the teams' meeting in Austin. "The difference (Thursday) was a kid named John Rutherford. They started to make that run and our guys got that look, and John made multiple 3s in a row and gave us some cushion."
Rutherford finished 4-of-6 from 3-point range en route to 12 points. The Hilltoppers got 25 points and eight rebounds from Shimeek Johnson, who was 9-of-9 from the free-throw line, and Jeff Campbell also made four 3-pointers and scored 19 points.
UTPB got a game-high 31 points from Xavier Martin, who had only six points at halftime, and Anthony Dees scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half. Keith Martin chipped in 10 points and a game-high nine rebounds for the Falcons, who made plenty of shots but not enough when it mattered.
For example, UTPB didn't score at all until the game was more than 4 minutes old.
"I just don't think we shot the ball well at all today, and that usually catapults our defense," Dees said. "I felt like we were fighting early. We just couldn't make a shot to save our lives."
Now the Falcons' postseason life is over before it ever got started. UTPB has three more games, including its last home game of the season Saturday against McMurry, before Osborne and his returning players begin preparing for next season.
Thursday's game could be considered a microcosm of this season. UTPB got off to a 1-4 start in conference play, then won four league games in a row to shoot up the standings.
But the Falcons' season began spiraling out of control with a 55-54 loss against Oklahoma Panhandle, which was winless in conference play, on Feb. 9. UTPB hasn't won a game since.
"Rome wasn't built in a day, but it can crumble in about 10 minutes," Osborne said. "That's what it kind of was."
Contact Adam Zuvanich on twitter @OAzuvanich, on Facebook at OA Adam Zuvanich or call 432-333-7649.
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