Special to the Herald
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. —
The Ashford University men's basketball team had the No. 4-ranked squad in the nation on upset alert Wednesday night.
Unfortunately, the foul-ridden Saints fell four points short of completing the upset as the team dropped a 72-68 decision to the Eagles of Embry-Riddle (Fla.) Aeronautical University in the nightcap of the 2013 Bahama House Classic, hosted by Embry-Riddle.
Sophomore guard DeAndre Lowery Jr. recorded his seventh 20-plus point game of the season with 21 points, thanks in part to a 4-of-5 effort from beyond the 3-point arc. Seniors Joe Lightfoot III and Vesteinn Sveinsson dropped in 14 and 12, respectively, while freshman Joshua Little chipped in 10 and grabbed a game-best nine rebounds.
"We were proud of the way we defended in the second half, very proud of our effort," Ashford coach Oliver Drake said. "We really need to learn to play with a sense of urgency and put together two halves against a good team like Embry-Riddle. We played with a lot of effort in the second half and had plenty of opportunities, but it all starts with defense and taking pride in guarding."
The Saints never led in the matchup, but battled back from a 12-point halftime deficit to cause some late-game drama.
Finding themselves down 13 points, 52-39, early on in the second half, the Saints edged back into the showdown with hot shooting from long range. Four consecutive 3-pointers, two from Lowery and one each from Lightfoot and Brandon Weston, cut the Embry-Riddle advantage down to just four, 55-51 with 12:56 to play.
"The 3-point shooting had to be there tonight and we had some great looks," Drake said. "I felt like we did a great job of making extra passes and we really valued the basketball tonight. When you have a two-to-one turnover-to-assist ratio against the fourth-ranked team in the country, you're doing the right things."
The Eagles squirted back out to an eight point advantage minutes later but a 9-1 run, highlighted by two more trifectas tied the game at 60 with 8:22 to play.
From there, AU's outside shooting cooled off and extensive foul trouble started costing the Saints on the defensive end. Freshman forwards Austin Uhrig and Tim Huber were both saddled with their fifth foul following AU's run, forcing the visitors to play small for the final five minutes of the game.
"We struggled to adjust to how the game was being called tonight and that's something that we have to do on the fly in a game situation," Drake said. "The fouls really put us in a tough spot, especially late in the game."
An Embry-Riddle 7-2 run finally did the Saints in as the home team pulled out a 72-68 victory.
The Saints shot a season-high 45.5 percent (10-of-22) from 3-point range and turned the ball over on just seven occasions but Embry-Riddle shot 50 percent from the floor as the team improved to 14-1 overall.
Ashford was also outrebounded 40-30 en route to falling to 11-5 overall this season.
Lowery dished out seven of AU's 15 assists and recorded six steals.
Ashford returns to the floor inside the ICI Center todayfor the consolation contest against the Bulldogs of Tennessee Wesleyan University (7-8). The matchup is slated for a 4 p.m. start.
"We need to let this one hurt a little tonight and move on to the next one first thing in the morning," Drake said. "Whether you win or lose, quick turnarounds are good. Tennessee Wesleyan is extremely explosive and athletic and I look for them to put a lot of pressure on us tomorrow afternoon."
TWU dropped an 83-65 decision to Voorhees College (SC) in Wednesday's opener.