GAME DAY: Men’s basketball fall short against STMU Rattlers, lose 79-76


Anna Pratts / Hilltop Views

Sophomore Blake Nielsen jumps for a three-pointer shot over Rattlers Edward Manuel’s hand.

The Hilltoppers lost 79-76 to the St. Mary Rattlers in a hard fought Battle of the Saints on Tuesday, Feb. 21. 

For 40 minutes, the Hilltoppers and the Rattlers had an intense back-and-forth, tying the game a total of 18 times and changing the lead on 15 different occasions. 

Freshman Sean Elkinton set the tone for the Hilltoppers in the first half, scoring 15 points and showing complete dominance in the Rattlers’ paint, with four defensive rebounds, two of which were back-to-back. Sophomore Gavino Ramos showed his skills in the three point zone, shooting 3-4.

Senior Mason Hix came in strong after keeping the energy and support high on the bench. He scored nine points in the five minutes he played in the first half, shooting 3-3 on field goals and making the net swing smoothly with a 3-pointer. Graduate student Uche Dibiamaka did not score, but kept the pressure high on the defensive side, with three defensive rebounds. 

Despite several well-coordinated and organized attacks by Elkinton, Ramos and sophomore Blake Nielsen, who had 2-3 for shooting and 3-4 on the free-throw line, St. Mary’s answered every time.

Rattlers guard Caleb Jordan gave the Hilltoppers a hard time, scoring 14 points with 4-9 for shooting and 4-4 in the line. Even with a 10-0 run on STMU over the last four minutes, the first half ended in a tie, 43-43. 

The second half was no different. The Hilltoppers’ focus remained on stopping Jordan — or  “sharp shooter,” as our players on the bench called him — but he continued to score, hitting a total of 23 points.

Elkinton gave everything and kept the game under control, scoring six more points and dominating the paint on both sides, with four offensive rebounds and adding two more defensive rebounds. Both Nielsen and Dibiamaka did not let the Rattlers’ advantage grow, scoring eight points each and coming to a combined total of 12 rebounds. 

With less than 40 seconds on the clock, SEU was down two points. The Rattlers changed that with a single possession, bringing their lead up to four and the clock down to 23.6 seconds. Gavino was fouled and converted both free throws, going 3-4 on the line. After several foul exchanges, the Rattlers were able to maintain the lead. Junior Jeff Gary jumped in the corner of the court for a 3-pointer, and the crowd was raised to their feet. However, one of the referees pointed out that Gary was stepping into the three-point line. The shot went on official review, revealing that Gary’s bucket was in fact worth two points only, bringing the game to an end with a 79-76 victory for the St. Mary’s Rattlers.

“We competed, but at this time of the year, it’s not about competing. We need to win,” Head Coach Andre Cook said.

St. Edward’s men’s basketball team fell to fourth in the standings for the Lone Star Conference with a 14-7 record.  The team has one more regular-season game before playing the LSC Tournament.