HATTIESBURG, Miss. – The Spring Hill College men's basketball team saw its 2011-12 season come to a close with a 66-55 loss at William Carey University on Saturday night as the loss knocked the Badgers out of contention for the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) Tournament next week while propelling Carey into the dance with the last available invitation.
Carey (13-17, 9-9 SSAC) opened the game with a 14-0 run before the Badgers found the bottom of the net off a layup by freshman Frederick Gatson of Riverdale, Ga., with 15 minutes left in the 1st half of play.
With 7 minutes on the first half clock, the Crusaders maintained a 21-8 advantage, but Spring Hill rallied to cut the lead to nine points just 3 minutes later when sophomore Charles Gordon of Birmingham, Ala., completed an Allie-Oop dunk off an assist from senior point guard Tyler Schwab of Panama City, Fla.
The Badgers (13-13, 7-11 SSAC) managed to whittle the Crusader lead down to 26-22 with a minute to play when junior forward Brett Williams of Oviedo, Fla., converted on a 3-point play, but Carey would score the half's final four points and carry a 30-22 cushion into halftime.
Sophomore Todd Martin from Mobile dropped in five consecutive points to open the 2nd half off a trey and an inside layup to bring the Badgers back within four points at 33-29 just 90 seconds into the final period.
A 3-pointer by sophomore forward Alex Looney of Mobile's Murphy High School made it a 1-point contest at 33-32, but Carey would quickly rebuild a 6-point advantage as both teams battled for control of the game's momentum.
Over the next four minutes, the Badgers would twice come within a basket of tying the game or taking the lead, but Carey was able to fend off the SHC rally both times and push the lead back out to five and six points.
Spring Hill trailed 48-41 with just under 10 minutes to play, but by the 8-minute mark a Williams layup had been followed by a Martin 3-point bucket to make it just 49-46 in favor of the home-standing Crusaders.
A Gatson layup at 6:20 was followed by a 2-point shot by freshman center Jake Thelen at 5:21 to give the Badgers their first lead of the night at 52-51. Gatson then gave SHC a 3-point advantage with a tip in of a Williams miss at 3:56.
Stefan Satori answered the bell for the Crusaders with back-to-back layups that re-staked WCU to a 57-54 lead with just 1:25 remaining in the game and two Phillip McCray free throws with 30 seconds left salted the game away for Carey.
Thelen paced the Badgers with 13 points while Martin had 11 points and Williams added another 10 points to the Badger cause. Spring Hill shot 44.9% (22-49) from the field and 25% (4-16) in 3-point attempts.
Roderick Little put 16 points in the buckets for Carey. Jamal Doss added 11 points as Sartori and McCray each had 10 points. Fernando Garcia pulled in a game-high 10 rebounds. The Crusaders shot 38.9% (21-54) from the field and was 40.9% (9-22) from 3-point distance. WCU out-rebounded SHC 38-30 and each team suffered 10 turnovers.