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Noticing they needed to pick up their game, the IVCC men’s basketball team battled in the second half to cut the deficit to two points with less than four minutes in the game.
But when the last buzzer sounded, the ups and downs were too much for the Eagles to overcome as Illinois Central College won 71-59.
“We came out flat. We weren’t ready for the game at all and then about the second half we started to pick it up,” Princeton graduate and Eagles’ sophomore guard/forward Michael Murray said. “We got into the game and we just let it slip away again. We couldn’t make free throws and we couldn’t finish at the end.”
The Cougars (5-4) jumped out to a 11-6 lead and expanded it to 20-9 with the help of ICC’s sharp shooting sophomore guard Joseph Feehan. He hit three 3-point shots in the first half and didn’t cool down from there hitting four more to finish 7-of-9 from beyond the arch for a game-high 23 points.
“They shot the lights out,” Murray said. “We came in trying not to let them shoot 3s and we didn’t do our goal, that’s why we lost this game. We didn’t do what we were supposed to do and we let coach down on that-that’s our fault.”
IVCC (5-2) fought on defense with blocked shots and pressuring the Cougars’ ball handler.
The defensive efforts then led to fast break baskets for Murray, St. Bede graduate and IVCC sophomore Alex Schwab and freshman point guard Corey McCrary.
However, the strong ICC shooting didn’t cease as it shot 73 percent in the first half.
“We didn’t run offense, we didn’t run defensive schemes,” Eagles coach Tommy Canale said. “We didn’t do nothing. We did nothing right tonight. I can’t honestly say that we did anything right tonight except battle, competed, gave effort and never quit.
“If teams just sit back and quit and don’t give full effort, you have problems internally. So, I expected us to play hard and compete, and we did. Everybody makes runs... even if you look at the run (we made), what did we do right in the run? We didn’t run a play or a defensive scheme. They threw it away a few times.”
McCrary started the rally by hitting one of two Eagles 3-point makes on the night. Murray then scored back-to-back baskets off of an offensive rebound putback and then McCrary dished one of his three assists for the second Murray bucket.
Murray finished the game with at least one tally in every category across the box score with a team high 19 points, nine rebounds, four steals, one assist, one block, two turnovers and one foul.
Sophomore center Perry Adams played a large part in the Eagles’ comeback. He finished with a game high 15 rebounds and notched a double-double with 15 points.
The Eagles cut the Cougar lead to 49-42 at the 11:49 mark in the second half when Adams shook a defender and easily laid the ball in.
Schwab added two more IVCC points with a penetrating drive ending in a layup to cut the deficit to five points.
Defensively, IVCC earned a couple of timely stops and pushed the ball hard for fast break layups from Murray and sophomore guard JoVonn Griffin to reach the climax of the comeback at 59-57.
Feehan seen this as his time to reawaken as he hit back-to-back 3s to help reopen the ICC lead to 10 points and, eventually, the 12-point victory at 71-59.
Canale hopes his team can shake off what he calls a disappointing performance and polish up Tuesday’s 26 turnovers against Thursday’s opponent Rock Valley in Rockford.
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.
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