Following a familiar early-season script, the St. Ambrose men’s basketball team started slowly and clawed its way back into a game Thursday night.
But this time, there was no happy ending for the 18th-ranked Fighting Bees.
Roosevelt turned back a St. Ambrose rally attempt in the game’s final minutes, using a solid touch from 3-point range and a nearly perfect night at the line to claim a 84-78 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference victory over the Bees at Lee Lohman Arena.
"We put ourselves in a hole early, and we never really got out of it," St. Ambrose forward Warren Allen said. "We’ve got to play our game for 40 minutes. It’s a hard to play this game when you’re playing from behind."
The Lakers didn’t give the Bees much of a choice, scoring their first six baskets on shots from behind the arc to build an 18-11 lead on a bucket by former Galesburg prep Grant Gibson just over nine minutes into the game.
Roosevelt collected 14 of its 24 baskets from 3-point range, including nine in the first half as it opened a 38-27 halftime lead.
Allen helped the Fighting Bees fight their way back into the game, scoring 19 of his game-high 25 points and grabbing six of his 13 rebounds in the second half.
Thirteen of Allen’s points came in the opening 10 minutes of the half, positioning St. Ambrose to forge a 56-56 tie when Tom Kazanecki scored on a drive with 9 minutes, 10 seconds remaining.
Roosevelt’s Jake Ludwig answered with a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession and after a missed free throw by Michael Williams denied the Bees a three-point play and a chance to re-tie the score with 8:43 remaining, the Lakers went to work at the line.
Roosevelt finished off a 22-of-24 game at the free-throw stripe by connecting on all 15 they attempted over the final 8:17 to hold off St. Ambrose, which connected on 17-of-28 tries at the line and was outscored by nine points from 3-point range.
"Free throws and 3s, they proved to be the difference," Fighting Bees coach Ray Shovlain said. "That’s an experienced team with a lot of seniors, and they played that way. We came out of the gate a little slow and against a team like that, you have to be ready."
Allen called it a tough lesson.
"We played our way back into it, but we needed to come out and take it at them with our game from the start," he said. "We let them get going and you can’t do that, especially at home. You’ve got to come out and set the tempo and be the aggressor. We didn’t do that."
Shovlain liked the way his team continued to fight, but conceded the Bees (7-3, 3-1 CCAC) expended a lot of energy trying to claw their way back from a deficit which reached a dozen points with four minutes left in the first half.
"It’s good to be able to come back like that, but ideally, you don’t want to keep putting yourself in those positions," Shovlain said. "We need to learn from this and get right back at it Saturday (at Trinity Christian)."
In addition to Allen’s effort, Jake Meeske finished with 17 points, and Kazanecki came off the bench to contribute 11 for St. Ambrose while Ludwig and Gibson led the Lakers (8-4, 3-1) with 20 and 18 points, respectively.