Saint Francis fell to one top-10 team Wednesday night. Another awaits.
Antwaan Cushingberry scored 21 points for the Cougars and Blackhawk Christian graduate Jalan Mull had 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists, but No. 8 Marian made six second-half 3-pointers to come back and beat 24th-ranked Saint Francis 81-74 at the Hutzell Athletic Center.
“It was a tough loss,” Cushingberry said. “It's still early (in the season), though, so we can get back in the lab and get better. We can't hold our heads down, we've got another tough one Monday against (Indiana Wesleyan), so it doesn't get easier from here.”
The Cougars' game against Taylor, scheduled for Saturday, was postponed. That means that the next time Saint Francis takes the court it will be against Indiana Wesleyan, the No. 1 team in the country, led by Kyle Mangas, a Warsaw graduate.
“It's going to be tough, obviously, Wesleyan is really good,” Saint Francis coach Chad LaCross said. “We just have to have a consistent effort for 40 minutes, we can't have breakdowns. ... I told our guys, if we're going to defend a certain way, we gotta do it that way every single time, it can't just be part of the time.”
The Cougars (15-4, 2-4 Crossroads League) defended the right way in the first half against visiting Marian, leading 31-26 at halftime after holding the Knights (9-2, 5-2) to just 1-for-12 shooting from 3-point range.
That changed after halftime as Marian began feeding the ball inside to All-American Cameron Wolter. The 6-foot-8 Wolter created problems for the Cougars' defense, especially after the Knights began knocking down shots from outside. He finished with 24 points on 10-for-12 shooting and added nine rebounds.
“They were intentional about going inside to Wolter, he's really good,” LaCross said. “We wanted to double with Cush(ingberry) and they made us pay when we did. (Wolter) did a nice job of reading the floor and kicking it out.
“I think the difference in the second half was that they were more physical than we were. They killed us on the boards.”
Marian took the lead for good at 44-43 on a Christian Stewart finish with 14:08 left that started a 7-0 run. Saint Francis went without a basket for 4:30 as the lead stretched to 10 before the Cougars clawed back late in the game.
Saint Francis got a big 3 from Carroll graduate Dan McKeeman to cut the deficit to six with 43 seconds left and Mull scored going to the basket to make it 77-74 after the Cougars' defense forced a five-second call on an inbounds pass, but that was as close as the hosts got.
Carroll product David Ejah had 10 points and eight rebounds for Saint Francis. He left the game in the second half after taking an elbow to the head and needed a handful of stitches after the game, but returned to play down the stretch.
Note: The Saint Francis women's basketball team fell to No. 9 Marian 81-66 on the road, falling to 8-6 overall and 3-3 in Crossroads League play. Norwell graduate Aubrey Dunnuck led the Cougars with 14 points, eight rebounds and three steals.