By DOUG EADS
Hialeah, Florida – For the second time in 31 hours, the Campbellsville-Somerset University Tigers took the number one team in the nation – Florida National University – to the very brink, giving the USCAA’s top club all it could handle, and then some.
And, for the second time in those last 31 hours, the homestanding Conquistadors would do just enough at crunch time to hold back a pesky Tiger basketball team.
Titus Ransom paced CU-Somerset with 21 points, AJ Thomas added 17 points, Keelan Kennedy added 15, and Meith Reclow chipped in with 13, but FNU held back Al Gover’s club by a final count of 96-91.
“The story of the game was their (Conquistadors) three-point shooting,” stated Gover, after his team fell by the slimmest of margins for the second straight day.
“Every time we would get close and get the deficit down to three or four points, they would come down and make a shot,” added the CU-Somerset coach. “I guess that’s part of the reason why they are ranked number one in the USCAA, because they make plays.”
And,while Gover is right in pointing out FNU did make plays — hitting 16-34 from behind the three-point line for the contest — the Tigers’ coach saw his club take a punch or two on the chin during the game, and come right back with a haymaker to the jaw themselves.
Trailing by 13 points midway through the first half, the Tigers made a big-time rally, closing the deficit down to just three points – 41-38 at the half.
In the second half, despite trailing by as many as 10 points on numerous occasions, the Tigers kept fighting back.
Trailing 74-67, a strong drive to the basket by Thomas cut the lead down to five points at 74-69 with 8:11 remaining in the contest.
Later, trailing the Conquistadors 77-69, Ransom would score on a nice move inside the paint, cutting the deficit down to 77-71.
Still, even later in the game, an old-fashioned three-point play from Hunter Stevens with 1:00 left in the contest would get the Tigers as close as they had been since the first half, only trailing Florida National by an 88-85 margin at that juncture of the contest.
However, on the next trip down the floor, Jaquan Robertson would drill an 18-footer from the baseline, and from there, Kenneth Santos would hit all six of his free throw attempts inside that final minute of play to help seal the deal, holding back CU-Somerset by the 96-91 final score.
So, after two games – both losses by scores of 88-80 and 96-91 – in games that saw the deficit at four points or less in the final minute of both contests, against the number one-ranked team in America in the USCAA, the Tigers did prove on this trip to deep south Florida they do belong on the floor with a top team and program like Florida National University.
“Both games were almost carbon copies,” pointed out coach Gover.
“We’re there in both of them, and they were hitting three’s in both games when they needed to make a big shot,” added the CU-Somerset coach. “We were getting to the rim in both games and had a lot of success in doing that. I was really happy with us and our play. I really think we took a major step in the right direction on this trip.”
With the loss, the Tigers fell to 6-18 on the season, and will be off until next Tuesday night with a home game.
The Huntington Prep Academy Post Grad team – a 107-100 loser to the Tigers in overtime last week — will return to Somerset Christian School on Feb. 21st to battle the Tigers beginning at 7 p.m.
Next Thursday night – in the final game of the regular season before post season tournament play begins – the Tigers will host CU-Harrodsburg at Somerset Christian School beginning at 7 p.m.