MUSKOGEE – Despite another strong showing from senior Rodney Smith, St. Gregory’s was unable to come up with a road win in its conference opener Thursday night. The Cavaliers suffered an 87-78 loss to Bacone at the Palmer Center Gym.
Smith, a Chicago native, poured in a game-high 26 points on 6 of 18 shooting. He was an efficient 13-for-16 from the free throw line – but ended a streak of 44 consecutive makes from there. Smith is averaging 26.2 points over his last six games.
SGU, however, was unable to get the lid off the rim as a team. The Cavs shot only 33 percent from the floor – including 7 of 24 from distance. After entering the game with the NAIA’s second-best team free throw percentage (79 percent), SGU managed only 25-for-44 (60 percent) Thursday night.
The visitors trailed by as many as 12 in the first half but rallied to cut it to a single-possession game early in the second after a conventional three-point play by Tyler Tucker. It was back and forth from there until just past the midpoint of the period.
Up 60-57 with 8:18 to play, the Warriors scored 15 of the game’s next 18 points over just a three-minute span to take control. The Cavs cut it to six late on a Smith trey but could get no closer.
Joining Smith in double figures for SGU were Jordan Rutherford and Tucker, who each netted 16 points. Richie Spiller had a team-best 24 for Bacone, which scored 19 points off 14 offensive boards.
St. Gregory’s (4-4, 0-1 SAC) hosts John Brown (Ark.) Saturday. Game time is set for 5 p.m. at Sumner Field House.