CLINTON – Led by 13 points from newcomer Tevin Harris and 12 points each from senior Thaddeus Perry and sophomore Damon Overton, Ashford opened the men's basketball season by holding off the University of St. Francis (Ill.) for a 72-68 win Tuesday night at Kehl Arena.
For a team that saw five players make their debut in the purple and gold, the Saints showed plenty of grit in fending off the Fighting Saints, making an impression on their coaching staff in the opener.
"I'm really proud of our guys," coach Oliver Drake said. "Everyone in the program contributed tonight, and for us to make plays late in a game when we had to make them is a really good sign. There are still a few areas we need to clean up, but we got it done, and I'm really proud of how our guys responded."
With the score 15-14 AU early in the first half, the Saints went on an 8-3 run capped by a Perry jumper to grab its biggest lead of the first half at 23-17 with six minutes to play. USF (0-3) responded with a 9-0 run to take its second lead, but the Saints clawed back to even things up at 30 at the break.
The game remained early in the second half. But, with the score tied at 37, the Saints got a little breathing room thanks to a 13-2 run, capped by a 3-pointer by senior Denis Dobkowski-Rylko to make it a 50-39 game with 10:40 to play.
The Fighting Saints refused to go away, though, chopping the Ashford lead to 67-66 with 51 seconds to play on a four-point play from Edvinas Presniakovis. But the Saints held their ground, sinking five late free throws to pull away and earn the win.
"We showed great resolve," Drake said. "There were several times we could have folded when they got close, but we showed our toughness. I'm proud of every single guy in the program tonight, and it's a good win for us to build on."