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The Journal Gazette

  • Elizabeth Wyman | The Journal Gazette Saint Francis' Austin Compton goes up for a shot against Indiana Wesleyan on Tuesday.

  • Elizabeth Wyman | Journal Gazette Chandler White makes a move during a Saint Francis basketball game Tuesday night. The Cougars upset No.1 Indiana Wesleyan 85-71.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018 1:00 am

Saint Francis 85 Indiana Wesleyan 71

Cougars upset No. 1 Wildcats

Junior scores 19 of his 23 in 2nd half

ELIZABETH WYMAN | The Journal Gazette

Saint Francis' Austin Compton was simply having fun Tuesday night.

The junior guard hasn't ever had this much fun playing against Indiana Wesleyan because the Cougars had dropped their last eight meetings against the Wildcats and hadn't won since Compton was a redshirt freshmen.

This was different. Saint Francis used its physicality and rallied behind Compton to upset the top-ranked Wildcats 85-71 on Tuesday at Hutzell Athletic Center.

“These are the best types of games,” Compton said. “A fun environment and to be able to knock a team off like that is pretty fun.”

The win was even more unlikely after Saint Francis (7-5, 2-2 Crossroads League) suffered a 92-64 loss to No. 5 Marian on Saturday.

Coach Chad LaCross said that's what he's most impressed with – his team's resiliency.

“It's not really about the win over Indiana Wesleyan, it's about how we played,” LaCross said. “We kind of laid an egg on Saturday down in Marian and just the way we responded and competed.”

The Cougars played like the No. 1 NAIA team in the first half. They locked down on defense, forcing eight Wildcats turnovers for eight points, holding Indiana Wesleyan scoreless for over six minutes and controlling the tempo.

“Defensively, no question this was our best effort,” LaCross said. “I thought we were physical inside. They're quite a bit bigger than us and we didn't back down. I think we just took them out of a lot of stuff.”

Indiana Wesleyan (11-2, 3-1 CL) plays through its two big men, brothers Evan and Seth Maxwell, who stand 6-foot-10 and 7-foot. Saint Francis has nobody on its roster taller than 6-7.

“We just executed,” Compton said. “We practiced all week on being more physical, pushing them around. We can control that, we can't control the height.”

Saint Francis forced Indiana Wesleyan to shoot 43 percent from the field and held them 22 points under their average of 93.

Hunter Hollowell had the hot hand for the Cougars, going 5 of 6 on 3-pointers, including a big step-back 3 with 12:15 left in the game that ballooned the lead to 17. Hollowell finished with 19 points and nine rebounds.

“Not only beating them, that's a plus, but beating the No. 1 team in the nation, coming back after a disappointing loss at Marian,” Hollowell said. “It's nice to come back get a huge win to put us back in that conference race.”

Indiana Wesleyan made a slight run early in the second half, connecting on its first four possessions, but Compton scored 19 of his 23 points in the second half, using his ball-handling skills to dribble around the Indiana Wesleyan big men.

Warsaw graduate Kyle Mangas led the Wildcats with 15 points.

The Saint Francis win came after the team fell out of the Top 25 NAIA rankings for the first time in 55 weeks.

“This is my fourth year here and we've always been a top-10, top-15 team, and that was definitely a shock and upset a lot of people in our locker room,” Compton said.

“Our team obviously doubted ourselves at times this year; ... we didn't have the greatest start, but I think tonight shows we can beat anybody and the young guys see that.”

ewyman@jg.net