The 2011-12 Spring Hill College men's basketball preseason opened with an 88-64 exhibition loss to NCAA Division 1 opponent the University of South Alabama Jaguars at the USA Mitchell Center on Wednesday night.
The Jags jumped out to an early lead that expanded to as much as 29 points late in the first half and took a 50-23 advantage into the locker rooms during the intermission.
Spring Hill regrouped, however, and came out of the halftime break with a renewed focus and energy that resulted in the Badgers outscoring USA 19-11 over the first nine minutes of the period.
Unfortunately for the Badgers, the Jaguars' depth and overall team size became the determining factor in the final 10 minutes of the contest and a 61-42 SHC deficit expanded back out to as much as a 30-point hole before USA closed the game at 88-64.
For Spring Hill, the lopsided result should not overshadow several positives that emerged during the contest. Freshman center Jake Thelen of Edgewood, Ky., struggled with ball-possession in the first half, but bounced back strong in the second half to lead the Badgers with a double/double performance of 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Junior guard Ricky Sears of Decatur, Ala., scored 10 points and fellow guard senior Stephen Burches of Hammond, La. was 4-of-6 from the floor with nine points.
As a team, the Badgers shot a respectable 39% (23-59) from the floor and 35% (7-20) from 3-point range usually while facing quick hands and a bruising defense put up by the Jaguars.
USA forced SHC into 15 turnovers and converted those fumbles into 27 points - a crucial statistic in a game decided 24 points.
Spring Hill opens its home preseason slate with an exhibition game versus Selma University (0-1) at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at the Arthur R. Outlaw Recreation Center. The schools' women's teams will also play an exhibition contest beginning 5:30 p.m. that evening.