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Photo by Pat Dailey | Special to The Journal Gazet
Saint Francis guard Qadr Owens finds an opening to the basket against Oregon Tech at the NAIA Division II national tournament Saturday in Point Lookout, Mo. Owens scored 14 points in his Cougars finale. He finished his career with 1,848 points, 390 assists and 168 steals.

Cougars capsized by ‘perfect storm’

– Unfortunately for Saint Francis, the Cougars weren’t involved exclusively in a three-point contest with Oregon Tech at the NAIA Division II national tournament on Saturday.

Shooting from three-point land was the only edge Saint Francis had on the second-seeded Hustlin’ Owls in the teams’ quarterfinal matchup, a 100-67 crushing of the Cougars.

Saint Francis was hammered even while making 8 of 15 three-point attempts.

“At least we had something go down,” guard Ethan Hussey said with a sigh. “But we didn’t play very well.”

It was quite a fall for Cougars (23-13), who hadn’t been involved in a game with a margin of double digits in their previous 12 games at the tourney the past three seasons.

“We haven’t been blown out like this in three years,” coach Chad LaCross said, recalling a regular-season home setback to Bethel just before the Cougars’ 2010 national championship run.

“It seemed like they didn’t miss,” guard Qadr Owens said of the Hustlin’ Owls (32-4).

Oregon Tech did whatever it wanted to offensively, hitting 11 of 22 three-point attempts and 13 of 14 free-throw attempts and getting a dozen offensive rebounds, while dominating the boards 30-17.

The Hustlin’ Owls led 8-0 and never looked back.

“We ran into the perfect storm,” LaCross said. “They did things that normally we do to win. It seemed like they got every rebound. They were physically stronger than us and I thought that really showed. We didn’t rebound very well, but they didn’t miss many shots for us to rebound.”

Added Hussey: “They were unbelievable. They could go inside or outside. They were tough to guard.”

Oregon Tech received 24 points from guard Bobby Hunter and 20 from forward Jason Gamblin.

“When we move the ball, we’re a pretty good offensive team,” Hustlin’ Owls coach Danny Miles said. “We can be pretty hard to stop.”

Saint Francis’ inability to halt anything Oregon Tech did offensively made the Cougars’ exceptional perimeter shooting a moot point. They trailed by 19 after 20 minutes, even after making 5 of 6 three-point attempts in the first half.

Hussey tried to give Saint Francis a spark by hitting three three-pointers in his 11-point first half. He finished with 19 points, after totaling only eight and shooting 0 of 6 on his three-pointers in the Cougars’ first two tourney games.

“It was good for his confidence, to get going again,” LaCross said, adding Hussey will likely undergo surgery in the offseason for a broken bone in a foot. “I felt like he was going to have a good game today, after struggling the past two days. He let things come to him.

“But we couldn’t get going enough to stay in the game.”

Inside the arc, Saint Francis was only 17 of 42.

“They were the better team today,” said Owens, who had 14 points in his Cougars finale. “It seemed like they wanted it more. I’m not going to use any excuses. They flat-out beat us. They sucked the life out of us.”

Owens finishes with career totals of 1,848 points, 390 assists and 168 steals.

“I have to give 100 percent props to the University of Saint Francis for giving me such a wonderful career,” he said. “We won this tournament one year, got back (to the championship) game last year and made a pretty good run this year. At the beginning of this season, I bet no one thought we were going to make it to the Elite Eight.”