Perhaps four games is too early to give the University of Saint Francis men's basketball team the moniker “Road Warriors," but early indications are the Cougars will be just that this season.
Saint Francis got a double-double from junior Scott Kohne and held Indiana Tech star Melvin Brooks scoreless in the second half to earn a 53-50 victory over the host Warriors on Tuesday night in an early-season battle between two of the better NAIA Division II programs in the Midwest.
The Cougars have won four straight to begin the season, all on the road.
“Each game is another test and prepares us for our tough conference,” Saint Francis coach Chad LaCross said. “(Indiana Tech coach) Al Grushkin does a great job. He is always prepared, we love playing his teams, it gets us ready for (the Crossroads Conference).”
The Warriors (5-1) had Saint Francis on the ropes midway through the second half, taking a 10-point lead with just under 10 minutes left.
But the Cougars took over coming out of a timeout, going on a 16-1 run to take control.
Many of those baskets came at the hands of Kohne, who scored 16 of his game-high 28 points after halftime. His basket off of an inbounds play with 3:30 left in the game gave Saint Francis a 49-48 lead, an advantage it would hold the rest of the game.
“(Coach LaCross) drew up a play during that timeout to get me the ball inside and we kept going to it later in the half,” Kohne said. “On that shot to take the lead, I think (Indiana Tech) got caught switching up defensively and I stepped in front and (Ethan Hussey) made a great pass and I went up and finished it.”
Equally important during the run was a defense that held Indiana Tech scoreless on 12 consecutive possessions.
“You talk about how three or four stops in a row is good, so 12 is almost unheard of,” LaCross said. “
It was evident early in the game that neither team had much interest in sitting outside throwing up long jumpers. Both teams attacked the basket throughout the game, with Saint Francis taking just three shots outside of the paint after halftime.
“Our biggest key, and we talked about it at halftime, was getting inside,” LaCross said. “At halftime, we were 9-for-13 inside and 2-for-12 outside.
“We passed on a lot of three's we normally take because we understood what we were getting inside.”
Meanwhile, the Saint Francis defense was making it tough for the Warriors' leading scorer to get much going. Brooks entered Tuesday averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds per game, but finished with just 11 points and four rebounds.
He was shut out on the scoreboard in the second half.
“We kind of doubled off some guys and made it tough for (Brooks),” LaCross said. “Obviously, we didn't come into the game expecting to hold him to zero in the second half. We just stayed in front of him and made him take jumpers.”
Kohne added 13 rebounds in the win and was the lone double-digit scorer for the Cougars, who ended a three-game losing skid to Indiana Tech.
The Warriors were led by Antonio Cannon's 17 points.
The two teams will meet again in 10 days, with Indiana Tech traveling to Saint Francis on Nov. 24.