NEW ORLEANS, La. - The Spring Hill College men's basketball team fell to the Dillard University Bleu Devils 78-72 on Monday night at Dent Hall.
The Badgers fell behind early at 6-1 and were force to spend much of the first half trying to catch the Bleu Devils, but Spring Hill finally managed to grab a 28-27 lead with two free throws by senior center Nick Brown of Rota, Spain, at 3:49 remaining.
Tied at 35 going into the halftime intermission, the Badgers and the Bleu Devils came out of the locker rooms and immediately resumed the back-and-forth style of the first half as the teams traded baskets for the first 12 points of the period for a 41-41 deadlock at the 17:13 mark.
An 8-1 run over the next four minutes gave Dillard a 49-42 lead, but SHC responded with two field goals by freshman Brandon Blake of Oxford, Miss., to cut the deficit to just 52-48 with 11:40 left on the board.
Trailing by four, 63-59, at 4:42, junior Kyle Watkins of Montgomery, Ala., knotted the score at 63 by converting a 4-point play with a 3-point basket and foul shot and then Watkins put the Badgers ahead 30 seconds later at 68-65 with a 3-point play off a basket and foul.
Junior Steve Edwards from Newton, Miss., stretched the lead to five points at 3:27 with an assist by Blake to make it 70-65 in favor of the visitors.
Dillard cut the lead to 70-69, but a defensive rebound followed with two free throws by Edwards made it 72-69 at 1:28. The Bleu Devils would cut it back to 72-71 and then Lawrence Etah took a steal away from Watkins and hit 1-of-2 free throws to tie the match at 72 with 1:02 showing.
Freshman forward Alex Looney from Mobile's Murphy High was called for an offensive foul with 56 seconds left that led to a basket by Kenyon Harper on the other end as Dillard took a 74-72 lead with 33 seconds left. Dillard then won possession of a loose ball with 13 seconds on the clock and Dillard's Jermille Fluker made both free throws to make it a 76-72 score.
Blake put 25 points in the baskets for Spring Hill while Brown scored his first double-double of the year with 21 points with 11 rebounds. Watkins contributed 14 points to the Badger cause.
Myron McGowen led four Dillard players in double digits with 16 points.
As a team, the Badgers shot 42.9% (24-56) and 17.7% (3-17) from 3-point territory, but committed 18 turnovers in the face of 11 steals by Dillard's defense and allowed a crucial 21 points off turnovers.
Spring Hill did, however, win the rebounding battle 44-36 under the boards.
Dillard was 39.4% overall from the field and 40% (8-20) in 3-point shots.
Spring Hill (1-1) will next play an exhibition game at the University of South Alabama at the Mitchell Center on Friday at 7:05 p.m.