STEUBENVILLE, Ohio – Franciscan men's basketball completed their second conference win in a row, shutting down Mt. Aloysius College's offense and maintaining the lead with free throws in a tight finish with a final score of 65-59.
FUS came out strong, leading from the beginning and finishing the first half up 29-22, largely thanks to a whirlwind four and half minutes from guard Jonas McCaig. The freshman hit two mid-range jumpers, two three point shots, and a layup for 12 of Franciscan's then 20 total points.
Though they maintained the lead through the majority of the second half, with just three and a half minutes on the clock the green and gold ran into foul trouble.
First, the team's leading scorer, Moses Sullivan spent most of the game on the bench with three first half fouls and a quick fourth in the second. Then, with three and half minutes to go, both Baron big men, freshmen forwards Daniel McElroy and John Paul Dombrowski fouled out. Two minutes later, the night's top scorer, freshman Keoni Sablan, picked up his fifth.
The Barons then played the longest 1:35 of their lives in a battle of free throws that saw sophomore guard Jacob Divens go 7-7 from the line with McCraig and freshman Thomas Rush adding four more between them to keep the Barons afloat.
"We tried to make it interesting at the end, but I'll take that win," head coach John Lamanna said. "We played well. I was pleased."
Lamanna added that the Barons' defense was the main component in turning the tables on Mt. Al, who beat FUS 72-69 earlier in the season.
"Our defense was really superb for the second game in a row," Lamanna said. "We did a great job of flying around the floor, guarding the basketball, and we did a better job of rebounding, which was an improvement off of Monday night."
Dombrowski was a large part of the team's defensive success, covering the Mounties' usual top scorer Tanner Thomas. Thomas averaged 17 points a game coming in but was limited to a mere seven thanks to Dombrowski and his backup McElroy.
On other end of the court, Sablan had a team high fifteen points thanks to a big second half, and was closely followed by Divens with 14 and McCraig's 13. Sablan also led the team in rebounds with six while Divens had five.
"Keoni played very well tonight," Lamanna said. "He was good on both sides of the ball and he's starting to come into his own and to get more comfortable. I'm looking forward to seeing his continued growth."
Lamanna added that Divens' 12-15 free-throw shooting was an invaluable asset to finishing up the win.
"Jacob made the free-throws down the stretch to ice the game," Lamanna said. "He did very well."
Despite the positive attributes to the night, Lamanna said the team needs to continue to reduce turnovers and work on end-of-the-game situations.
"We're going to be in a lot of close games hopefully, so we've got to be able to keep executing at the end of the game," Lamanna said.
With back-to-back conference wins, however, the Barons as a whole are beginning to play with more confidence despite their senior captain, Sullivan, being relatively quiet the last few games.
"Rightfully so," Lamanna added. "I believe we're starting to gel and come together as a group. This is what we've been waiting for all season. We'll have another opportunity to show if we are or not against Bradford on Saturday."
Now eighth in the AMCC, the men will take their newfound assertiveness on the road to face the University of Pitt.-Bradford on Saturday, January 24 at 4pm.