SXU men claim tourney title
After posting two big-scoring efforts in the first two games of the SXU Midwest Tournament, the St. Xavier men’s basketball team kept its offensive groove on track, enroute to an 85-76 victory over Bellevue University on December 23 at the Shannon Center in Chicago.
Capping the championship game of the tournament with 23 points and 10 rebounds, senior guard Brad Karp earned the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award in leading No. 10 ranked Cougars to the championship on Bob Hallberg Court.
“Bellevue is a very good team,” St. Xavier Coach Tom O’Malley said. “They were a 10-2 team coming in that beat a 10-4 team and a 10-2 team. We played them well. We had multiple substitutes, and we played a very good second half. We we’re down by seven at halftime and had a nine-point advantage in the second half.
“Brad Karp was instrumental again for us. He had a great game overall. He had 12 points at the half and 11 points and seven rebounds in the second half. We had a lot of contributions and five guys in double figures.”
The Cougars (13-2 overall) came alive scoring 51 points and shooting 56 percent (18-for-32) in the second half after trailing 41-34 at the break.
Junior guard Jack Krieger was instrumental in the second-half surge scoring 21 points, including three three-pointers.”
Senior point guard Michael Simpson finished with 14 points, four rebounds and four assists. Sophomore forward Josh Mawhorr was a force as well recording 12 points, six rebounds and team-best five assists.
“Jack Krieger scored 12 of his points in the second half,” O’Malley said. “He was 4-for-4 from the free throw line and had three 3-point baskets. We’ve won nine in a row, and a lot of that is due to the fact that Jack Krieger has come back and has been effective. He can shoot the ball and is a great player all the way around.”
“Mike Simpson had just two points in the first half and ended with 14 points and 7 out of 8 free throws. The guys inside were also big for us.”
Bellevue controlled the tempo of the game in the first half and Saint Xavier never led in the opening frame despite tying the score seven different times. The Bruins built their largest lead of the night, 47-36, in the first minute of the second half.
The three-pointer lit a fire under the Cougars, who went on a 16-0 run over the game’s next five minutes to take a 52-47 lead. Six St. Xavier players scored on the key run, including five points by Simpson.
The Cougars sustained the momentum and extended their lead to 13 points, 67-54, with eight minutes remaining in regulation on a pair of Krieger free throws. The Bruins got no closer than six points the rest of the way as the Cougars hit crucial free throws down the stretch to ice the victory.
St. Xavier (13-2 overall) returns to action with a home game against Silver Lake College (Wis.) on at 3 p.m. Sunday.
“If you had told me would be 13-2 heading into the new year, I have would certainly settled for that,” O’Malley said. “Our two losses were to teams high in the national rankings (one NAIA Division 1 and the other NAIA Division 2). We were in the fight in those games.
“Sure I would have liked us to be undefeated, but we’ve been playing good basketball.”