Saturday’s overtime loss wasn’t any easier for the St. Ambrose men’s basketball team to stomach than the one which preceded it three days earlier.
"Two totally different games, but we didn’t make the plays we needed to make down the stretch to get it done either time. That’s tough to take," junior Jake Meeske said following an 80-75 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference loss to Holy Cross at Lee Lohman Arena.
The Saints deployed a methodical approach, working the shot clock on each possession to overcome a double-digit second-half deficit.
It was a vastly different style than the one the Fighting Bees faced in dropping a 117-111 overtime game Wednesday at Robert Morris (Ill.).
There was one similarity that St. Ambrose coach Ray Shovlain wanted his team to understand from the two games.
"We should have a pretty clear picture now of how thin the margin for error is in this conference," Shovlain said. "Everybody we’re playing is good, and you need to take advantage of every opportunity that is out there."
Shovlain emphasized with his team that both games weren’t necessarily decided in the final minutes.
"One rebound, forcing one turnover somewhere in the middle of the game can make all the difference in the world," Shovlain said. "Those little things, somewhere in the middle of a half, they aren’t so little when games are this close."
St. Ambrose opened comfortable margins in both the first and second halves against the Saints but struggled down the stretch as Holy Cross rallied.
The Bees led 38-23 when Meeske connected on one of his five 3-point baskets with 4 minutes, 18 seconds left in the opening half as part of a 65-percent start from the field by St. Ambrose.
But the Bees didn’t score another point the rest of the half, taking a 38-35 lead into the locker room at halftime in a scenario that repeated itself in the second half.
Meeske hit again from behind the arc to give the Bees a 47-35 lead five minutes into the second half, but St. Ambrose (9-8, 5-5 CCAC) didn’t score again in regulation after Meeske scored the last of his game-high 26 points on a jumper that gave the Bees a 66-61 lead with 5:12 left in regulation.
"You can’t go four, five minutes without scoring and expect to win," Meeske said. "I missed a couple of shots late that I needed to make."
Neither team scored in regulation after Jordan Gaines’ jumper with 2:27 remaining tied the score at 66-66, and Holy Cross (11-9, 5-5) used a Bryce Crosen jumper and a 3-pointer from Nate Miller to open a 71-66 advantage in overtime that St. Ambrose was unable to answer.
The Bees’ drought from the field reached more than eight minutes before Michael Williams scored on a lay-in with 1:31 left in overtime to cut the Saints’ lead to 73-69, as close as St. Ambrose would get the rest of the day.
Williams and John Kerr each scored 14 points for St. Ambrose, while Storm Cook, Robby Jimenez and Bryce Crosen each scored 19 to lead Holy Cross.