CLINTON — There was a warm feeling all around Kehl Arena on Wednesday night, and it wasn’t just because of the near-zero temperature outside.
Playing at home for the first time since Dec. 17, the Ashford men’s basketball team got a warm reception from a hearty crowd. The Saints felt they owed their fans an assist after pulling out a 71-69 victory against Wisconsin-Stout.
They didn’t know if they would have won in the same situation on the road, where they had played their past eight games.
“I’m not so sure you do,” Ashford coach Oliver Drake said. “I think the crowd definitely influences energy. It definitely creates an atmosphere where guys have a little extra pep in their step, so no doubt they made a great difference. It was mostly our women’s basketball team. They did a great job of supporting us, and we really appreciated that.”
Tevin Harris, whose back-to-back 3-pointers put the Saints ahead to stay, said: “There’s no way we win if we don’t have that crowd. It feels great to be home. It’s invaluable. Without our crowd, the game could have went the other way.”
But Damon Overton, who scored 18 of his game-high 24 points in the second half, including eight of Ashford’s final 10, wasn’t so sure.
“I think we would (have won),” he said, although he admitted that the fans “kept us in the game, and a couple of times when we were fatigued they pushed us through.
“It’s just toughness down the stretch. But, again, they did beat us at their place.”
Drake said the Saints (16-7) had come a long way since that 56-41 loss in Menomonie, Wis., on Nov. 30.
“They’re a team that beat us pretty good at their place. That was in November, and we’ve shown we’ve made some pretty serious strides to come up with a win,” he said.