Sveinsson's Career-Game Leads to Comeback Victory in Clinton | Schools
CLINTON, Iowa--On a day set aside to recognize the newest member of the Ashford University Athletics' Hall of Fame, the AU men's basketball team put together a Hall of Fame-style performance.
Trailing by eight at the halftime break, Ashford put together its best half of basketball this season in the second half, outscoring the Fighting Bees of St. Ambrose University 42-31 en route to posting a 71-67 victory on Hall of Fame Day in Clinton.
Senior forward Vesteinn Sveinsson netted a career-high 24 points and dished out a team-high five rebounds to lead AU to its 16th victory of the season. Sophomore Brandon Weston scored 16 points while Calumet City, Ill.-native DeAndre Lowery Jr. and East Moline, Ill. freshman Damon Overton tallied ten apiece.
"I thought Vesteinn's (Sveinsson) play was huge for us tonight, he was very consistent and was there when we needed him," Head Coach Oliver Drake said following the game. "He played like a big-time senior and I'm proud of the way he played when we needed him the most."
The Saints shot 52% (26-of-50) from the floor for the game but needed a 15-of-24 (62.5%) shooting effort in the second half to recover from a dismal final three minutes of the first frame. After holding a slight lead throughout much of the contest, the Saints allowed SAU to go on a 9-2 run to close the half and fell behind 36-28 headed into the halftime break.
"We really lacked intensity and focus of what our jobs were in the first half," Drake added. "We need to understand that the start and finish of halves is what gives us the momentum for the game. Our guys need to do a better job with the way we handle things under our control – close outs and box outs – it's how momentum starts."
Luckily for AU, the best was yet to come.
St. Ambrose extended its advantage to double-digits within the first minute of the second half and continued its grip on a healthy lead throughout the first five minutes of the second half. However, an AU 7-0 run cut the visitors' lead to just two points, 45-43 with 12:31 to play.
The Fighting Bees once again pulled away from the Saints following that, but an 11-1 AU run which lasted just under three minutes shot the home squad out to a 60-55 lead with 5:04 showing on the clock in the second half. Lowery accounted for six of the teams points during the run while Overton notched an old-fashioned three-point play to help the momentum swing in favor of the Saints.
But the Bees weren't done. St. Ambrose chopped into Ashford's lead with back-to-back three point buckets and after the teams swapped jumpers, the visitors held a 63-62 advantage with 2:34 to go.
That would be as close as St. Ambrose would come to victory as the Saints bolted back on an 8-2 run and held on for a 71-67 win.
"We dug ourselves a big hole, and the way we fought back was huge," Drake continued. "When St. Ambrose answered, we immediately responded and stepped up with toughness and faced adversity well."
Ashford out-rebounded SAU 28-22 and held the Fighting Bees to just eight field goals in the second half.
Weston and freshman Austin Uhrig each grabbed a team-best five rebounds while Uhrig swatted away three St. Ambrose shot attempts.
With the win, AU improves to 16-6 overall while St. Ambrose falls to 6-13.
At halftime, the Saints recognized former Head Men's and Women's Tennis Coach Y. Joe Williams as he became the 37th member inducted into the AU Athletics Hall of Fame.
The Saints return to the road next Saturday, Jan. 26 when the team visits Menomonie, Wis. to battle the Blue Devils of the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.