SIOUX CITY | Even when the long range shots weren’t falling, Briar Cliff found a way to beat Culver-Stockton, 92-81, in the last of four games in the Briar Cliff Holiday Classic Friday at the Newman Flanagan Center.
The fifth-ranked (NAIA Division II) Chargers showed a little rust after having not played a game in 10 days, but overcame a 35-point performance by Culver-Stockton’s Mike Johnson to chalk up a win over the NAIA Division I Wildcats.
Briar Cliff (15-2) trailed 42-40 at halftime before outscoring the Wildcats 52-39 in the second half.
“We were a little disappointed at half, we didn’t think our defensive effort more than anything was where we needed it to be to start the game,” Briar Cliff Coach Mark Svagera said. “We gave up a lot of easy baskets in the first half and the guys came out with a real sense of purpose in the second half. We never extended the lead but we turned a two-point deficit into an eight-point lead pretty quick and that was the story of the game, how we started the second half.”
The Chargers reeled off the first 10 points of the second half, beginning with back-to-back 3-pointers by Erich Erdman and Jay Wolfe. After Erdman and Jackson Lamb each made layups, BCU had a 50-42 lead four minutes into the second half.
Although the biggest lead the Chargers had was 12 points at the 13-minute mark, they were able to withstand a late charge by Culver-Stockton, which pulled within two points with three minutes remaining.
Thaddeus Newby made a 3-pointer to bring the Wildcats within 80-78, but the Chargers went on a 9-0 run. Blake Wiltgen made two quick buckets, one on a tip-in of a missed 3-pointer, and Erdman contributed the final four points of a 20-point effort during the decisive spurt.
Wolfe led a list of five BCU players in double figures with 21 points, while Lamb had 14 and Wiltgen 12 (6 of 7 shooting). Josh Belling had one of his best performances of the season with 11 points in a reserve role, nailing three 3-pointers.
Normally a 41-percent shooting team from beyond the arc, the Chargers made only 9 of 32.
“Credit to them, they just kept fighting and their two guys were really good tonight and were hard to stop,” Svagera said. “I was real happy with how our guys dug in and got some stops late in the game. We had a shot clock violation and turned them over late, which is what we wanted to do earlier in the game, but better late than never.
“You chalk our shooting up to a little bit of Christmas break rust and hope it’s a little bit better tomorrow and a little better the game after that and kind of get back to where we were.”
Johnson, averaging 22.6 points per game, scored on both drives to the hoop and 3-pointers (3-6) for the Wildcats from Canton, Missouri. Cullen Smith tacked on 23 points while Smith and Johnson each snared 11 rebounds, helping the Wildcats claim a 43-30 advantage on the boards.
“That was a good way to respond after break to grit one out on our home court and get a win,” Erdman said. “We have a team of competitors that want to win for each other. At halftime we said we could either come together or fold and we came together and it showed in the second half.”
Briar Cliff takes on York in the two-day Classic finale at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.