Free Throws the Decider as Crusaders go 2-0 on SCAC Weekend

Levi gains season record for blocks. Nunn's 2nd half performance leads Crusaders ahead at Southwestern.
Levi gains season record for blocks. Nunn's 2nd half performance leads Crusaders ahead at Southwestern.

GEORGETOWN, Texas – Free throws proved to be the difference in Saturday's game between the University of Dallas men's basketball team and Southwestern University. Both squads had 23 attempts, and the Crusaders sank five more than their opposition in a 77-72 victory.

Dallas was able to build a 36-31 advantage at halftime, and would hold onto that margin the next 20 minutes despite four lead changes and three ties in a back-and-forth contest. Joshua Nunn (St. Louis, Mo.) led the guests in the second half with all 15 points coming that stanza. The freshman guard was perfect at the free throw line (11-11) and had the final seven points for his team.

The Crusaders started the final half of conference play on the right track with triumphs in consecutive days against teams that had edged them last weekend at the Maher Center. The wins improve Dallas to 11-8 overall. The team is also back over .500 in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) games at 5-4. The Pirates fall to 8-11 and 4-4 in league play.

HOW IT HAPPENED

It started out as a low scoring game through the first 10 minutes of action, with the Crusaders ahead 13-11. Moments prior to that, there had been a six-point edge for UD after Spencer Levi (St. Louis, Mo.) completed an old fashioned three-point play at 11:49.

On the other end of the floor, Levi was a player to watch as he entered two blocks away from matching the season record for the program. At 8:53, Levi swatted his 53rd of the year and became the first player since 2017 Hall of Famer Eric Creeger achieved the feat in the 1994-95 season.

The Pirates later matched their greatest lead with a 27-22 mark after Luke Hicks hit a three-pointer with 4:35. UD countered with a 14-3 run over the next three minutes to gain the momentum before intermission. Up 36-30, a foul at the last second gave Hicks a chance for free throws, which he split.

For the game there were eight lead changes and seven ties. Southwestern controlled the lead about midway through the second half, by going up 57-52.

Nunn started a 9-0 scoring streak for the Crusaders by making two free throws. He then forced a steal that gave the ball back the visitors. Michael Wambsganss (Denver, Colo.) scored the next five points with a layup and then go-ahead trifecta to make it 59-57. Nunn followed at 8:48 with a jumper to cap the outburst.

The home team battled back over the next several minutes, but a layup by Wambsganss lifted UD in front for good at 69-67 with four left. Levi then came up with his record-breaking blocked shot on the next play with 3:51 to go in regulation. Southwestern retained the ball, but then missed the attempt at a triple.

That was the final field goal made for the Crusaders, but a 16-for-20 effort at the charity stripe in the second half proved to be enough offense. Eight consecutive free throws came in a row down that stretch Dallas was without a field goal. Darrius Colvin (Waco, Texas) made the second-of-two and then Nunn sank the next seven.

Dallas scored eight unanswered, while keeping SU without any points from 4:34 to 1:22. A foul on Nunn's three-point attempt put him at the line at 1:35, and all his free throws were successful to put Dallas up 75-67.

Southwestern rang in a triple by Jake Holmes to end the quiet stretch, and then Joel Martinez scored on a jumper to cut the deficit to three. Ryan Wheeler had picked up a steal on the full court press with a minute left to give the hosts the ball before that field goal made it one possession.

The Crusaders missed their next shot, but got the charge called on Wheeler with 11 seconds to get the ball back. Nunn was fouled and sealed the final score.

STAT NOTABLES

Colvin eclipsed 20 points (15 in first half) for consecutive games on this road trip and tallied another game-high in just as many. He shot 8-for-15 from the floor and 3-of-5 from three-point distance. The junior missed a double-double by one rebound. Nunn followed in scoring with his career performance.

Levi recorded another double-double with 11 points and a game-high 15 boards. John Russell (Bossier City, La.) and Wambsganss also reached double-digits in scoring with 12 and 10 points, respectively. Levi and Russell combined for six of the team's seven blocks with three each. That helped the Crusaders shatter the team blocks record from last season by four, as they improved their mark to 88. 

Dallas outshot the Pirates (42.9%-40%) from the floor, and were 18-for-23 at the free throw line compared to 13-of-23 for its opponent. The Crusaders also held a 45-39 edge on the glass, while Southwestern led in points off turnovers 20-12.

Brandon Alexander (14), Wheeler (13), and Holmes (13) were the top scorers for the Pirates. Alexander neared a double-double with nine rebounds.

TIP-INS

Levi now holds two records in the program, after posting nine blocks for the single-game record on December 2nd against Johnson & Wales University (CO).

Levi extended his double-double streak to six games and seven straight conference games. It is his 13th overall.

Dallas ended a five-game slide in head-to-head matchups with the Pirates dating back to 2014-15. The Crusaders last win was on the road in a 72-66 final on January 30th.

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UP NEXT

Dallas plays its third game in four days with a non-conference matchup at Arlington Baptist College on Monday. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. The Crusaders won 104-101 in double overtime last season at the Maher Center.