Score: Oklahoma Wesleyan 72, Evangel 67
Records: Evangel (7-6), Oklahoma Wesleyan (8-3)
Location: Ashcroft Center
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Despite nearly erasing a 15-point second-half deficit, the Evangel men's basketball team dropped a hard-fought 72-67 decision to visiting Oklahoma Wesleyan at the Ashcroft Center Monday evening.
After OKWU shot a blazing 46 percent from the floor to seize a commanding 45-30 halftime lead, the Crusader defense turned in a shutdown performance in the second half to give the home club a shot at a comeback. EU limited the Eagles to 0.250 shooting in the second stanza, forcing 10-straight misses from the floor at one point, while the Crusaders used an 11-3 scoring run in the final three minutes to pull to trim the deficit to three points.
Trailing 67-56, a Pavel Antonov bucket and a Josh Pritchett three-pointer sparked the late charge. Antonov added a free throw with 1:28 to play to slice the deficit to five points, and Kendall Sutton sank a triple with 44 seconds to play to pull EU to within four points.
Pritchett's twisting lay-in 20 seconds later cut the lead to 70-67. After a timeout, EU forced a turnover to reclaim possession, but Valentin Van Putten blocked a Pritchett three-point attempt, and Brooks Haddock hit a pair of free throws with eight seconds to play to seal the outcome.
Haddock finished with a game-high 24 points, while Kaleb Stokes added 17 and nine rebounds for the Eagles. Pritchett led the Crusaders with 14 points, and Antonov added 10 points, nine board and three blocks.
The Crusaders shot 0.464 (13-of-28) from the field in the second half in their second-straight setback at the Ashcroft Center after starting the season with four-consecutive home victories.
OKWU took control of the contest behind the one-two punch of Stokes and Haddock, as the Eagles torched the nets in the opening half, burying 10-of-22 (0.455) attempts from beyond the arc.
After Evangel rallied from an early double-digit deficit to close to within six points on back-to-back dunks from Antonov and Pritchett, Haddock buried two treys and Stokes connected for another in a span of just 68 seconds to extend the OKWU lead back to 14.
EU pulled to within 12 late in the half thanks to three-pointers by TJ Boykins and Jonah Wilson, but Austin Poling drained the 10th OKWU triple of the half just ahead of the buzzer to account for the 15-point margin at the break.
OKWU maintained its comfortable cushion over the first seven minutes of the second half, before a 10-2 EU run drew the Crusaders to within 54-50 with just under 10 minutes left on the clock.
Haddock connected on a pair of fall-away jumpers to stretch the lead back to eight, and Van Putten drilled what would be the lone OKWU three-pointer of the second half at the 6:32 mark to make it a 63-52 contest.
EU's defense then went into lockdown mode, holding OKWU without a field goal until Haddock's bucket with 1:04 left in the game.
OKWU finished with a sizable 47-36 advantage on the boards and forced 17 EU turnovers. For the game, the Eagles hit on 11-of-33 attempts from three-point range, finishing just 1-of-11 from long range in the second half.
Evangel embarks on a two-game Heart Conference road swing Wednesday (Jan. 6) with a 7:30 p.m. contest at MidAmerica Nazarene in Olathe, Kan.
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.