In a clash with conference foe University of Saint Francis (USF), the Huntington University (HU) Forester men’s basketball team was on the wrong end of a 97-87 decision Tuesday, Jan. 4, at Hutzell Athletic Center. The loss is HU’s first since before Thanksgiving and snapped an eight-game win streak that drops Coach Kory Alford’s crew to 13-4 overall, 2-3 in league play.
The 25th-ranked Cougars have stacked up five straight wins over Huntington as they improve to 13-4 on the year which includes a 3-2 record in Crossroads League (CL) action. The two squads entered the night in a five-way tie for third place in the league standings.
USF got off to a fast start for a 10-2 lead four minutes in behind David Ejah’s seven points. The 6-7 sophomore was quiet the rest of the half before erupting for 25 points in the final 20 minutes. He tagged-teamed with Antwaan Cushingberry, this week’s NAIA National Player of the Week, to account for over half of the Cougars’ scoring on the night.
While Ejah’s main contributions came in the second half, Cushingberry went to work in the opening frame where he scored 18 of his 29 points. Between the two, they made sure their team stayed on top for all but a 30-second spell midway through the first period.
The first half featured a handful of drawn out runs at both ends of the floor. After spotting their hosts an early eight-point advantage, the Foresters got things turned around with a 16-6 spurt that saw Lane Sparks and Zach Goodline each toss in seven points for an 18-16 HU lead by the 10-minute mark.
While just two points separated the two teams three minutes later, Saint Francis spent the rest of the frame slowly pulling away for a 45-34 halftime lead. USF stretched their advantage to as many as 18 at 70-52 with 11:35 remaining before Caleb Middlesworth rallied the troops.
The 6-8 senior forward scored seven of his team’s next nine points to ignite a comeback that saw Huntington dissolve the lead to five at 80-75 with just under five minutes to go.
Unfortunately, the Cougars execution the rest of the way proved impressive with Ejah’s three at the 1:44 mark a dagger that ballooned the lead back to double figures at 87-77 after which the hosts went a perfect 10-for-10 from the line to secure the victory.
HU was led by Goodline’s 24 points. Middlesworth dropped in 16. Ben Humrichous scored all but two of his 14 points in the second half. He also chased down a team-best five rebounds and snagged three steals. Sparks and Spencer Ballinger came off the bench to add 13 and 11 points respectively.
In addition to his 32 points, Ejah also corralled 12 rebounds for the Cougars. USF’s other double-digit scorers included Cushingberry (29) and Dan McKeeman (12).