INDIANAPOLIS — After a quiet first half, Josh Hogan‘s actions were loud and clear in the second half of a 77-64 USF win at Marian University in the NAIA Game of the Week on Saturday afternoon.
The University of Saint Francis junior guard scored 21 of his game-high 25 points in the second half helping the 23rd-ranked Cougars to the road thrill at 22nd-ranked MU on the John Grimes Court in the Physical Education Center on the MU campus. USF led 38-35 at halftime.
The Cougars (19-9, 11-5 Crossroads League) outscored the Knights (15-6, 11-5 CL) 39-29 in the second half to climb into a three-way tie for third in the CL with two games to play this week. USF goes back-to-back in NAIA Top 25 competition with its final regular-season home game on Tuesday against No. 16 Huntington at 7 p.m.
USF shot nearly 60 percent (.593) in the first half, then shot even better in the second half, .706 on 12 for 17 shooting, while MU shot .393 ( 11 for 28) in the second half, .273 (3 for 11) from 3-point range.
“We really stuck to the game plan, were patient with it inside and if (Marian) collapsed on Scott or Austin or Kyle, they kicked it out and reversed the ball,” USF Head Coach Chad LaCross said. “We made them defend the whole court. Our execution offensively as well as defensively frustrated them and made them work for everything they got.”
Hogan was limited to four points in seven minutes in the first half. He had save his best for the last 20 minutes.
Hogan, who sat out the first win over MU (71-66, Jan. 18) with an injury, finished 8-for-11 shooting (.727) including 2-for-3 shooting from 3-point range. USF senior and 2012-13 NAIA All-American Scott Kohne chipped in with 14 points and a team-leading six rebounds. Kegan Comer and Austin Fox came off the USF bench to scored 12 points apiece.
“I just thought they way we dominated inside, opened it up and he was able to attack off the ball screen, and Josh was able to turn the corner and make them pay, especially when we got the big lead, we were able to put it in his hands and let him go to work,” LaCross observed. “He made some great passes as well that made them play him honest. We didn’t force anything, maybe one or two shots, and Josh is hard to guard, especially when he knocks down some 3s and he was much more confident taking it to the basket. It makes a big difference.”
Hogan got USF scoring started in the second half with a jumper at 19:22 starting a 7-0 USF run. Kyle Sovine‘s 3-point play with 17:36 to play opened a 45-37 USF lead. Aaron Evans’ layup stalled the USF run momentarily at 16:18, but a Hogan free throw, a Kohne jumper and a Hogan layup gave USF its first double-figure lead at 50-39 with 14:47 to play.
Evans, who led MU scoring with 24 points, cut the deficit to eight, 52-44, but USF answered with a 6-0 surge for a 60-44 spread on a Spencer Comer layup at 11:07. USF built the advantage to 71-50 on two Jordan Hahn free throws with 4:43 to play and MU got no closer than the final margin of 13 in the time remaining.
“Big win for us,” Hogan said. “I was just in the right spots at the right time and fortunately, my teammates were able to find me and I was able to get into a flow. I think once I got warm and really attacked and buckled down on defense, that really opened up our offense.
“They are a really good team, but me being out there and helping the team on defense benefited the team on offense,” Hogan added. “Once I was able to get a couple easy buckets in the half court, I felt comfortable attacking or finding teammates open to knock down some shots. That’s the key to our offense when we’re moving, guys are not standing still, it makes it very hard for defenses to focus in on any one of us.”
HU rallied to beat Grace College on Saturday, so the Foresters are No. 2 alone in the CL at 12-4, 23-5 overall. The Foresters won the first game with USF 72-60 at HU on Jan. 21.
After Senior Night on Tuesday against HU, USF finishes on the road at Goshen College next Saturday at 3 p.m. while HU finishes back home against Taylor University with plenty of jostling for CL Tournament seeding still on the table.