ALLIANCE, Ohio – Mount Union's men's basketball team improved to 6-1 overall and 2-0 in the OAC after an 87-83 victory of John Carroll (5-1,1-1) in an Ohio Athletic Conference matchup Wednesday at the McPherson Academic and Athletic Complex.
The Raiders were led by junior Andrew Francesconi who poured in a season-high 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting while also grabbing five rebounds. The Raiders had four scorers in double figures as sophomores Nathan Bower-Malone (Stow/Stow) and D'vontay Friga (Cuyahoga Falls/Cuyahoga Falls) had 17 and 16 points, resectively whie senior JJ Kukura (Alliance/Alliance) posted 13.
A high paced and highly contested first half saw the largest lead be six for each team. In the first 20 minutes, there were a combined 69 shots, where John Carroll hit 16-of-35 (.457) and Mount Union nailed 15-of-34 (.441).
John Carroll led 44-40 at halftime after closing the half on an 8-3 run. Francesconi led the Raiders in the first half with 12 points while Kukura had four assists. Mount Union got off to a quick 4-0 lead before the Blue Streaks went on a 7-3 run to tie the game at seven. At the 16 minute mark of the first half, the platoon system took place for each team as 10 new guys came on the floor: this happed six times in the half. The teams went back and forth most of the half as there were seven lead changes.
The Raiders opened the second half with a 10-6 run to tie the game at 50 a piece led by five quick points from sophomore Bower-Malone. A layup by Friga gave the Purple Raiders the lead at 53-52 which extended up to 57-52 on a Francesconi layup. The Raiders got the lead up to six at 67-61 before an 8-3 Blue Streak run cut the Raider lead to one with just over seven minutes left in the game.
With just over five minutes in the game, John Carroll tied the game at 75. After a pair of free throws and a layup, the Blue Streaks took a 79-75 lead and four straight free throws from Bower-Malone tied the game again at 79. Francesconi and Bower-Malone took over the final two minutes as Francesconi got an offensive rebound with 1:45 in the game and then hit a three point basket to break the tie and give the Raiders an 82-79 lead. After two John Carroll free throws, Bower-Malone made one-of-two free throws and senior Miles Griffin (Massillon/Jackson) got the offensive rebound on the miss with 24 seconds remaining. After a steal by Friga, Francesconi went to the line and calmly nailed two free throws to put the game out of reach. The Raiders outscored the Blue Streaks 47-39 in the second half.
The Purple Raider defense held the John Carroll offense to just 31-of-70 shooting (.443) that included 8-of-22 from distance (.364) and a season low 83 points. Mount Union shot 27-of-62 (.435) from the floor in the game but 13-of-29 (.448) from distance. At the free-throw line, the Raiders shot 20-of-31 while the Blue Streaks shot 13-of-20.
The Raiders will next be at Ohio Northern for another OAC matchup on Saturday, December 9th at 2 p.m.