Despite a valiant second half rally, the Spring Hill College men's basketball team took a 79-73 conference loss to the University of Mobile Rams at the Arthur R. Outlaw Recreation Center on Thursday night.
The first seven minutes of play were a back-and-forth affair as both teams fought to gain control of the momentum before the Badgers wrestled out a 6-point lead at 16-10.
Mobile (9-11, 5-5 SSAC) responded with 17-3 run over the next 11 minutes to take a 27-19 lead. During the Ram rally, the Badgers hurt themselves by missing seven consecutive free throws on their way to a disastrous 10-of-20 first half performance at the charity stripe.
Spring Hill recovered late in the first period to find themselves down just 40-36 at the break and was within a bucket at 43-41 with 15:38 remaining, but Mobile again answered the Badger challenge with a spurt that rebuilt a 10-point lead for the visitors at 59-49 with 10 minutes to go.
Not to be outshined on their own court, the Badgers came back once again behind inside buckets by freshman center Jake Thelen of Edgewood, Ky., and midrange jump shots by freshman forward Frederick Gatson of Riverdale, Ga., to make it 67-65 in favor of the Rams with just 4½ minutes before the final buzzer.
At 1:05, sophomore Badger guard Todd Martin hit a jump shot to bring SHC within 74-71, but Ram forward Antonio Hester turned in the play of the game with a 3-point play off a bucket from under the basket that also drew the foul from Thelen to make it 77-71 with 29 seconds remaining and essentially wrapping up the game.
Martin led the Badgers with 17 points while senior guard Stephen Burches of Hammond, La., added 14 points and Thelen corralled 10 rebounds. As a team, Spring Hill shot 50% (26-50) from the field and was 47.1% (8-17) from 3-point distance, but the men in purple could only muster a 50% (13-26) night from the free throw line.
Spring Hill gave away 13 turnovers against seven Mobile steals while the Rams lost 12 mishandles against just two Badger takeaways.
Hester led all scorers with 21 points and 10 rebounds for Mobile. The Rams were 45.2% (28-62) from the field and 25% (6-24) from 3-point land. The maroon also took home the rebounding crown with a 41-35 decision.
With the loss, Spring Hill (10-7, 5-5 SSAC) fell half a game behind Belhaven University (11-11, 6-5 SSAC) for the SSAC West Division's top spot and travel to Jackson, Miss., on Saturday at 4 p.m. to face the Blazers at Rugg Arena.