OWENSBORO, KY. -- For the second time in three days, a sensational attempt at an upset bid over a nationally-ranked opponent turned into a gut-wrenching loss for the University of Missouri-St. Louis men’s basketball team.
The Tritons, who are in the midst of playing three straight games against teams from the Great Lakes Valley Conference East Division that are all ranked in Division II Top 25 national poll, led for almost the entire game Saturday afternoon against No. 9-ranked Kentucky Wesleyan.
But the unbeaten and unblemished Panthers were able to grab the lead late and then held UMSL off in a furious final 14 seconds, for a 72-71 win over the Tritons.
Kentucky Wesleyan’s Dazmond Starke, who came off the bench to score a team-high 21 points, gave the Panthers their first lead since very early in the game, when he made a layup with 2:03 left that put the home team ahead 71-69, after it had trailed by as many 16 points in the first half and 14 points at halftime.
UMSL’s Michael Weber, who finished with a game-high 25 points, tied the score for the Tritons with two free throws with 53 seconds left, setting up a furious final minute finish that saw both teams have chances to win.
Kentucky Wesleyan’s Starke missed two shots on his team’s next possession, giving the ball back to UMSL and the score still tied with 39 seconds left.
Unfortunately, a turnover by Weber with 27 seconds left gave the Panthers the ball back again.
This time, forward Rico Ferguson was able to force a foul against UMSL’s Charlie Woods, and then made one-of-two free throws to give the Panthers a 72-71 lead with 14 seconds to go.
On its final possession, UMSL worked the ball as best it could, until the Tritons found Weber for a slightly contested three-point attempt with one second left.
Unfortunately, the Triton junior’s heave clanged off the rim, sailed wide, and was rebounded by Kentucky Wesleyan’s Lucas Barker, effectively ending the game as UMSL had no time left to attempt any more shots.
Kentucky Wesleyan, which is likely to move even further up the national poll when the rankings come out on Monday, is now 10-0 this year, while UMSL fell to 7-4.
UMSL returns to action Thursday night, when it hosts another unbeaten opponent, No. 4 ranked Bellarmine University at the Mark Twain Gym at 7:30 p.m.
Score by Half ............. 1 ... 2 -- Final Score
UMSL ......................... 43 . 28 -- 71
Kentucky Wesleyan .. 30 . 42 -- 72
UMSL -- Michael Weber 25, Darian Cartharn 12, Joshua McCoy 8, Charlie Woods 6, Kevin Dwyer 5, Neil Branham 4, Justin Jones 4, Isiah Nunn 4, Aareon Smith 3.
Kentucky Wesleyan -- Dazmond Starke 21, Rico Ferguson 13, Krieg Oxley 12, Donovan Johnson 12, J.D. Danforth 5, Lucas Barker 3, Dominique Dawson 2, Cornbread Walker 2, Patrick Neel 2.