Pair of Free Throws Preserves Win for Owls
SPRINGFIELD, IL -- In a game where each team led by at least nine points, it would come down to a pair of Blake Burgess free throws and a quick foul to give the William Woods University men's basketball team a 66-64 win over Benedictine University at Springfield in Thursday's AMC opener for both teams.
Back-to-back three-pointers from Jonathon Nutt and Logan Decker gave WWU an early 6-2 lead, but the Bulldogs were able to battle back with a 11-6 run to stake an early claim on the momentum.
After a jumper from Jordan Michels capped the run for a 13-12 BU-S lead, with 15:05 on the clock, Nutt found Decker in the lane to put WWU back on top.
The layup was just as quickly answered by the Bulldogs, who stretched out a 10-0 run to take their biggest lead of the night, a 23-14 cushion with 10:10 left in the first half.
William Woods would hold the Bulldogs to just nine points over the final 10 minutes of the first half, however, as they erased the deficit and took a 36-32 lead into the locker room.
Both teams looked as if they'd left their shooting touch in the locker room to start the second half, as it took William Woods 3:52 to record the first field goal of the second stanza. A Roy McElroy bucket snapped a string of five straight misses for WWU.
The Bulldogs needed seven attempts to record their first basket of the second half, but Justin Smith's trey with 15:35 on the clock would spark a mini run for BU-S as they reclaimed the lead at 40-39 with 12:45 to go.
William Woods wrestled control of the game over the next seven minutes, however, taking advantage of a 17-5 run to pull out to its largest lead of the game, a 56-45 cushion with 5:47 to go.
BU-S slowly reeled the Owls in down the stretch, hitting their next six shots from the floor to close an 11-point gap to a 64-63 deficit with 58 seconds to play.
WWU had a chance to put the game away on its next possession, but D.J. Hoskins saw his effort from long range miss the mark, giving Benedictine University at Springfield the ball with 22 ticks on the clock.
After holding for the last shot, the Bulldogs finally saw their luck run out as Reggie Thomas' effort was off target.
Burgess came down with the rebound and was immediately fouled, knocking down both of his shots to put WWU in front 66-63. On the ensuing play, Decker fouled Justin Smith, with the Bulldog only able to make one of his bonus free throws.
Burgess was one of two Owls with 13 points on the night - McIlroy was the other - With Nutt chipping in 12 and Hoskins adding 11 on the night. The Owls were outshot .481-.446 on the night from the floor and .480-.421 from three-point range, but made up for the deficit at the free throw line. WWU hit on eight of its 14 trips compared to a 2-of-7 performance from BU-S to earn the two-point win.
Justin Smith led all scorers with 21 points, with Densel Smith adding 14 for the Bulldogs. The rebounding battle was evenly matched, with WWU grabbing 33 to just 31 for BU-S.
William Woods moves to 5-9 (1-0 AMC) on the year while Benedictine University at Springfield falls to 3-10 (0-1 AMC).
The Owls host Harris-Stowe State University on Saturday as part of Community Night. Admission to the game, set for a 4 p.m. start, is free.