Score: Evangel 70, Graceland 57
Records: Evangel (4-3, 3-0), Graceland (0-2, 0-2)
Location: Ashcroft Center
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The Evangel men's basketball team wiped out a 10-point deficit thanks to a stingy defense and 30 combined second-half points from Cade Coffman and Josh Pritchett to record its fourth-straight victory with a 70-57 Heart of America Athletic Conference win over Graceland Tuesday night at the Ashcroft Center.
After going a combined 0-for-11 from the floor over the contest's first 20 minutes, the duo of Coffman and Pritchett powered a 31-14 second-half EU surge by converting 9-of-11 shots, including 6-of-8 from beyond the three-point arc.
Coffman scored 17 of his game-high 19 points in the second half, grabbed nine rebounds and logged five steals to lead a Crusader defense that limited the Yellowjackets to just four points over the final 9:28 of the game. Pritchett added 16 points, including a stretch of seven-straight EU points that sparked a 20-4 Crusader run to close the contest.
Evangel withstood a subpar first-half shooting effort to remain within seven points at the break. The Crusaders, who had shot a combined 47.2 percent from the floor over their last three victories, connected on just 26 percent (9-of-35) of their first-half attempts.
Graceland jumped out to a 10-4 lead behind eight points from Trey Newsham in the first four minutes of the contest. The senior guard converted 3-of-4 three-point tries in the opening half, including his first two attempts in the game.
EU battled back to take a 13-10 lead via a 9-0 spurt over a three-minute stretch, as freshman Stephen Salvi scored eight straight points for the home club.
The Yellowjackets responded with six unanswered points and led 20-19 when Newsham's trey opened a 10-2 run. GU stretched its margin to 10 points on Winslow Martin II's triple with 1:46 left on the clock, before four successful free-throw tries sent Graceland into the half with a 34-27 advantage.
Evangel climbed out of its hole with nine unanswered points over the first 3:14 of the second half, getting threes from Coffman and Pritchett and a pair of Chris Stocks baskets to claim a 39-38 lead. The two clubs traded the lead several times over the ensuing five minutes until three-straight Yellowjacket free throws gave GU a 53-50 advantage with 9:28 to play.
Edriel Martinborough started the decisive run by knocking down 1-of-2 charity tosses, before Stocks tied the game with a drive to the basket with 8:22 left on the clock. Pritchett's jumper at the 8:06 mark gave EU the lead, and the sophomore connected two more times to extend the lead to seven. Coffman then made it a 63-53 game with his trey with 4:39 to play.
The Yellowjackets would go scoreless for nearly five-and-a-half minutes as EU built its double-digit lead. Dhimani Hernandez's bucket with just over four minutes to play snapped the GU dry spell, but the visitors would get no closer than eight points the rest of the way.
EU, which locked up its first 3-0 start in Heart Conference play since 2014, shot 44.8 percent from the floor after intermission, while holding GU to just 0.310 shooting in the second half.
Newsham led the Yellowjackets with 18 points, going 7-of-13 from the field, while Burton added a game-high 11 boards.
The Crusaders will take a break from Heart Conference action with a Friday (Nov. 27) evening exhibition against cross-town foe Missouri State. Tip off is slated for 7 p.m. at JQH Arena.
For the latest information on Evangel Athletics, follow the Crusaders on Facebook at Facebook.com/EUAthletics, Twitter (@EUAthletics), or visit EvangelAthletics.com. Fans can also receive updates on the team by downloading the new Evangel Crusaders GamedayApp through Google Play.