Score: Clarke 68, Evangel 62
Records: Evangel (7-5, 6-2), Clarke (5-3, 4-2)
Location: Ashcroft Center
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Clarke seized control of a back-and-forth Heart of America Athletic Conference contest with a strong defensive effort, edging the Evangel men's basketball team in a 68-62 decision Tuesday afternoon at the Ashcroft Center.
After the Crusaders battled back from a double-digit deficit to tie the Pride on three separate occasions over the first 12 minutes of the second half, CU put the clamps on the EU offense down the stretch to log its sixth-straight win in the series.
Keith Johnson led all scorers with 20 points, while Jordan Lake tallied 11 second-half points for the Pride after being held scoreless in the first half. Lake's three-pointer with 6:22 to play turned a 51-49 CU lead into a five-point edge, sparking a decisive 14-6 Pride scoring run.
The Crusaders were limited to 0.362 shooting from the floor, including a season-low 2-for-21 (0.095) showing from three-point range in their first home setback of the season.
Cade Coffman paced the EU attack with a 19-point afternoon, becoming the 36th Crusader to reach the 1,000-career point plateau early in the contest. The junior All-American also corralled a season-high 12 rebounds and blocked a pair of shots.
Clarke, which won for the third time in four meetings with EU on its home court, used a 17-6 scoring spurt to build an early 10-point advantage, only to see the Crusaders chip away and score 17 of the final 27 points of the first half. Behind Keith Johnson's 3-of-6 shooting performance from long range, the Pride established a 23-13 lead at the mid-point of the half.
But Pavel Antonov converted a pair of second-chance baskets in the paint, and Jonah Wilson drained a jumper to keep the Crusaders within striking distance. EU closed to within one on four occasions before CU took a 33-30 edge into the break.
Evangel pulled to within one on Antonov's basket to open the second half, but Lake scored the next five points to hand his club a 38-32 lead with 17:00 left on the clock.
A 9-3 EU spurt, punctuated by Ryan Lofton's putback of his own miss, knotted the score at 41-41, and the two teams traded free throws until Chris Stocks' second-chance bucket with 8:37 to play evened things up once again at 47-47.
But Clarke tightened its defense to limit the Crusaders to four field goals over the ensuing four minutes, then held EU scoreless for nearly another four-minute stretch to secure the victory. After Josh Pritchett's drive to the basket with 4:28 to play drew EU to within 59-55, the Crusaders wouldn't score again until Coffman's layup with 38 seconds to go stopped a 6-0 CU run that gave the visitors a 10-point bulge once again.
Lake added a game-high seven assists to his 11-point afternoon, and Gabe Shields chipped in with 12 points for Clarke.
Antonov finished with 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting before fouling out midway through the second half.
After enjoying a three-week holiday break, Evangel will return to action with a Jan. 4, non-conference contest against Oklahoma Wesleyan at the Ashcroft Center.
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.