Milwaukee, Wis. - Opening the game with an 18-3 run, the No. 7 ranked and No. 2 seeded Saint Xavier University men's basketball team rode the hot start to help upset the NAIA's top ranked team taking down defending national champion Cardinal Stritch University (Wis.), 85-74, in the 2014 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) Tournament Championship Saturday afternoon at Panella Court in Milwaukee, Wis. The loss was the first home setback for the hosts this season and the first since the Cougars claimed a 66-62 win over the then-No. 3 ranked Wolves back on January 19, 2013. The victory also snapped an 18-game win streak for CSU redeeming the 17-game win streak that SXU had ended by Stritch back on February 1.
Junior guard Jack Krieger (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield North) had the hot hand for the Cougars Saturday connecting on nine of his 15 shots from the field for a game-high 25 points. Senior guard Brad Karp (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso) and senior point guard Michael Simpson (North Chicago, Ill./Cardinal Stritch/North Chicago) were also instrumental in the big road win posting 19 and 17 points, respectively. Senior guard Derek Semenas led the Wolves in scoring finishing with 19 points, while junior guards Tony Smit and Chad Mazur had 16 and 14 points, respectively. For the second straight game, SXU shot very well from the field at 56 percent (28-for-50) and limited its mistakes committing just 12 turnovers.
The Cougars were motivated from the onset taking the early 18-3 lead and maintaining their double-digit advantage for most of the first half leading by as many as 18 points before settling for a 46-30 halftime edge. A pair of free throws by Simpson early in the second half extended the lead as high as 20 points, 50-30, before Stritch made its move. A three-pointer by Semenas capped a 13-2 run for CSU over the game's next four minutes that cut the SXU lead to just nine points, 52-43.
A three-pointer by Mazur with 9:03 to play made it a three-point game, 59-56, but a jumper by Krieger and a pair of lay-ups from Karp kept the surging Wolves at bay. With 4:10 remaining, Krieger hit a key jumper that pushed the Cougar lead back up to double figures, 71-61. Stritch made one final run closing to within five, 79-74, with 54 seconds to play on another three-pointer by Mazur before Simpson finished the game at the free throw line connecting on all six of his attempts to secure the upset.
Saint Xavier (29-4 overall/16-3 CCAC) earns one of the conference's two automatic bids to the 2014 NAIA Division II Men's Basketball National Championship by winning the tournament title. The 32-team national tournament kicks off on Wednesday, March 12, on the campus of the College of the Ozarks (Mo.) in Point Lookout, Mo. The seedings and pairings for the national tournament are set to be released by the NAIA national office on Wednesday, March 5, via an online selection show that begins at 8 p.m. (central).