The Jesse White Tumblers weren’t the only ones turning head over heels Saturday afternoon at Lee Lohman Arena.
The St. Ambrose men’s basketball team matched the performance of the halftime act at the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference game, flipping the script to rally for an 80-64 victory over Indiana-South Bend.
The Fighting Bees turned a 13-point deficit with four minutes remaining in the first half into a 20-point lead with just over eight minutes remaining in the game, then held on to win for the fifth time in their last seven conference games.
“We challenged the guys a bit at halftime and I liked the way they responded,’’ St. Ambrose coach Ray Shovlain said. “They showed me some toughness in the second half that we’ve been looking for, to go from being down double digits to up 20, that type of a swing isn’t easy to do.’’
After falling behind 34-21, St. Ambrose positioned itself for a comeback with its play in the final minute of the first half. A jumper by Tyler Hilby and a buzzer-beating deep three-point basket by Jake Meeske cut Indiana-South Bend’s lead to 38-35 at the break.
The Fighting Bees connected on just 14-of-37 in the opening half, a 37.8-percent touch it also flipped after intermission.
St. Ambrose shot 51.4 percent over the final 20 minutes, knocking down 12 of its first 16 shots from the field on its way to a lead which reached 73-53 on a basket by Blake Buls with 8:02 remaining.
“We didn’t come out the way we needed to, this was a big game for us,’’ Meeske said. “There are a lot of teams in the CCAC jammed up in the middle of the standings and this was one we had to have. We played that way after halftime.’’
The Bees attacked the basket early and forced the Titans into turnovers on three straight possessions.
That allowed St. Ambrose to tie the game at 41-41 on a John Kerr jumper with 18:17 remaining and move ahead 44-41 when Meeske knocked down a free throw after being fouled on a drive to the basket 50 seconds later.
St. Ambrose (11-10, 6-6 CCAC) didn’t stop there.
Hilby scored seven points in a 58-second span around the 15-minute mark, taking the ball to the hole for a pair of lay-ins on both sides of a three-point basket which was part of a 6-of-7 game and 13-point contribution from the senior.
“We had a number of guys give us good contributions in the second half. Hilby gave us some quality minutes that we needed,’’ Shovlain said. “It was good, team effort.’’
On his way to a game-high 23 points, Meeske buried a trio of three-point baskets on consecutive possessions and Jalen Jones added a fourth to extend the lead to 63-50 with 12:10 remaining, a margin which ultimately reached 20 points.
Indiana-South Bend (10-12, 2-10) sliced the Bees’ lead to 73-63 on a three-point play by T.J. Benner before a jumper by Warren Allen with 3:13 to go allowed St. Ambrose to regain 12-point margin.
“Once we got the lead, we didn’t give it back,’’ Meeske said. “We needed to win a couple of conference games at home this week and we got that done."