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Up next for Saint Francis: Today vs. Robert Morris (Ill.)

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For more on college basketball, follow Tom Davis via Twitter at www.twitter.com/Tom101010.

Cougars to open national tournament with difficult test

Friday, March 14, 2014 - 3:11 am

Up next for Saint Francis: Today vs. Robert Morris (Ill.)

When: 5 p.m. (EST)

Where: Keefer Gymnasium, College of the Ozarks, Point Lookout, Mo.

On the air: video stream link at saintfranciscougars.com

Records: Saint Francis (21-10), Robert Morris (23-9)

Expected starters for the Cougars: Scott Kohne – 6-7, senior center; Kyle Sovine – 6-9, sophomore forward; Spencer Comer – 6-3, junior forward; Josh Hogan – 6-3, junior forward; Jordan Hahn – 5-11, sophomore guard.

Update: The Cougars make their return to the NAIA Division II Men's National Tournament after a one-year hiatus and face a very tough task from the outset. Robert Morris is an athletic team that was riding a five-game win streak before losing the No. 1-ranked Cardinal Stritch (79-71) in its conference tournament. The Cougars have made a habit this season of playing to the level of their competition. They've beaten several top 10 squads, including the aforementioned Cardinal Stritch squad, but have also suffered stunning defeats. Second-seed Saint Francis could have hosted all of its Crossroads League Tournament games due to top-seed Indiana Wesleyan being upset by eventual tournament champion Bethel. However, the Cougars were shocked at home (63-55) by seven-seed Spring Arbor. That loss came on the heels of the Cougars needing a last-second lay-in by Kyle Sovine to get past last-place Goshen (5-25) in their regular season finale. Saint Francis earned a 14-seed in the national tournament, while the Eagles finished the season ranked 19th nationally. This marks the fourth time in five seasons the Cougars have earned a national tournament berth. They won the event in 2010 and lost in the title game the following season. Robert Morris is competing at the Division II level for the first season after moving down from NAIA Division I status.

Saint Francis coach Chad LaCross: “Robert Morris forces turnovers. They are very athletic. They throw it up and go get it. They don't shoot it very well (from 3-point range), but they've got guys that will put it up and go get it. If we don't get a body on guys... The other thing too is with their (defensive) pressure, they force teams into bad shots and that leads to transition lay-ups. We've got to make sure that we are patient, setting good screens, handling their pressure, moving the ball and forcing them to defend both sides of the floor. (The Goshen and Spring Arbor) games don't concern me. Our preparation this week has been really good. Our guys are focused. Obviously, there was a let-down against Spring Arbor. I think we just overlooked them. The good teams that we've played on our schedule, and we've played a lot of them, those are teams that we aren't going to overlook. Obviously, the first round of the national tournament, we're not going to overlook anybody. We'll be ready to play."