CLINTON — A college basketball game lasts 40 minutes, but all it took for the Ashford Saints to close out the 2013 home schedule with a stomach-turning loss lasted 1.7 seconds.
NCAA Division III Wisconsin-Eau Claire used all 94 feet of the court to score the final basket to give the Blugolds a 64-63 win in Kehl Arena on Saturday night.
There were seven ties in the game, but Ashford gave up the lead for the first time with 26 seconds remaining, got that lead back, but that final basket gave Ashford loss number three.
Things looked bright for the Saints after Thaddeus Perry’s layup preceding the miracle layup that UW-Eau Claire put in.
The Blugolds called timeout knowing it was going to take a miraculous basket for them to get out with a road win.
Jacob Kohner set up at the Ashford baseline ready to throw the ball to the deepest, most-open teammate. Before Kohner received the ball from the official, the other four Blugolds were hovering around the halfcourt line. A couple of them moved up as emergency guys, one stayed stationary around the Ashford mid-court logo, but Lewis Mau escaped the crowd as the guy looking for a football-like reception.
Mau got free and caught the ball just inside the paint, took one dribble and kissed the ball sweetly off the glass before being mobbed by his fellow teammates underneath their hoop.
And just like that, Ashford went from being a second away from the 11th win to feeling stunned, disgusted and, lastly, defeated.
Mau had a game-high 21 points and 10 rebounds that included a 9-for-12 shooting performance. Following behind was fellow guard Adam Hjelter with 17 points, highlighted by three 3-pointers.
Ashford coach Oliver Drake played seven Saints, and four of them scored in double digits. Leading the way was Damon Overton with 17 points and four first-half steals.
Ashford started the game with aggressive defense that forced the Blugolds to turn the ball over 10 times in the first half. They ended up with 16 while the Saints had only seven turnovers. The Saints converted 21 points off those 16 turnovers.
While UW-Eau Claire may have had trouble handling the ball in the backcourt, they made that up by scoring 42 points in the paint to Ashford’s 16. Twenty-two of the 36 second-half points scored from the Blugolds were inside in the paint.
Drake did not make himself or the players available for comment after the game, but he did tweet the following after the loss: “Lost a tough one tonight. Love our guys and feel blessed for all the little things in life.”
WISCONSIN-EAU CLAIRE 64, ASHFORD 63
UW-EAU CLAIRE (4-5) — Kurtis Moody 5 0-0 10, Jacob Kohner 2 0-0 4, Lewis Mau 9 3-4 21, Adam Hjelter 6 2-2 17, Eric Effertz 0 0-3 0, Trevor Berkley 0 0-0 0, Cavan Stackpool 0 0-2 0, Andrew Duxbury 0 0-0 0, Corey Larson 0 0-0 0, Jared Miller 5 2-4 12. Totals 27 7-10 64.
ASHFORD (10-3) — Tim Huber 1 1-2 3, DeAndre Lowery 5 2-3 13, Josh Little 0 2-4 2, Damon Overton 4 7-11 17, Anthony Woods 4 1-4 12, Thaddeus Perry 5 6-7 16, Tevin Harris 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 19-31 63.
Halftime -- Ashford 36, UW-Eau Claire 28. 3-point goals — UW-EC 3 (Hjelter 3); Ashford 6 (Woods 3, Overton 2, Lowery). Total fouls — UW-EC 23, Ashford 15. Fouled out — Moore (UWEC).