Over this past weekend, the University of Dallas men’s basketball team traveled to St. Louis to take on Fontbonne University, and then on to Jacksonville, Illinois to take on Illinois College. The Crusaders emerged victorious over Fontbonne before taking their first loss of the season against Illinois.
On Saturday, St. Louis native Spencer Levi led the Crusaders in his hometown with 20 points and 12 rebounds against Fontbonne, the second double-double of the freshman’s young career.
“Spencer’s double-double was big for us,” head coach Jarred Samples said. “He played with a lot of energy. He had a lot of friends and family there at the game being from St. Louis.”
The Crusaders started slow, falling behind 21-15 halfway through the game. However, the team buckled down on defense, and had on-target shooting from freshman Michael Wambsganss, who went 5 for 8 from the three point line in the game. The Crusaders ended the game on a 19-5 run to win 79-66.
“We brought energy and rebounded well and played well enough defensively to seal the deal,” senior Manny Calton said.
Calton led the team with five assists and the Crusaders had an overall positive assist-to-turnover ratio of 17-11, a feat the team has struggled to achieve the past two years.
“It was a good team effort and nice road win for us,” Samples said.
The win gave the Crusaders a 3-0 record before they traveled to face another undefeated team in Illinois College.
Despite a strong offensive performance and a late run at the end of the game, the Crusaders fell 90-87.
“We did not play defense the way we are capable, and it cost us,” Samples said. “Anytime you shoot 55 percent from the floor, score 87 points, and out rebound the other team like we did, you would expect to win. However, if you give up 90 points and turn it over 14 times, that’s a recipe for defeat.”
While the Crusaders jumped out to a 6-0 lead, Illinois scored the next eight to start the back and forth battle that lasted throughout. Neither team led by more than six for the first 30 minutes of the game until Illinois’ David Bauer knocked down a three-pointer to take a 69-62 lead with 9:10 left in the game.
The lead grew to double digits at 88-77 with 2:37 left in the game. The Crusaders fought back, cutting the lead to 89-86 with 1:10 left on a pair of free throws by freshman John Russell, but were unable to get over the hump.
“I love our effort, we never gave up even down double digits with three minutes left we still fought back to cut it to three,” Calton said. “Defensively we weren’t locked in enough to get the win,” he added.
“Hopefully we can learn from this game and continue to get better,” Samples said.
“I feel this loss was a great learning experience, though, as now the team knows we aren’t invincible,” Calton said. “[It] perhaps gives us a needed chip on our shoulder.”
The Crusaders return home to face University of the Ozarks at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, and then face future conference member Johnson and Wales at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 2.