FULTON, Mo. - Westminster men's basketball led for 35 of 40 minutes in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference win over Fontbonne, 86-75.
The Blue Jays improve to 4-5 with the win and 3-1 in the SLIAC.
"Today's game was a very important conference game for us heading into the holiday break," said Westminster Head Coach Matt Mitchell. "We played really well defensively, forcing 19 turnovers and taking them out of their offense."
After a slow start in which Westminster only scored once on an emphatic Stu Hollandsworth dunk in the opening three minutes, the defense was strong to hold Fontbonne to just five points. Kobe Wands tied up the game with a three-pointer at the 16:28 mark, and a Carter wands layup with 15:06 to play put Westminster up 9-7. After that, the Blue Jays never looked back.
Westminster slowly began to extend their lead in the next five minutes, thanks to three-pointers from K. Wands and Nolan Huot. After Steven Brandt knocked down two freethrows, Westminster took a 19-11 lead after the first 10 minutes of play.
A Hollandsworth layup just below the seven-minute mark was the first double-digit lead for Westminster at 23-13. K. Wands hit a layup and three-pointer along with a Brandt freethrow to further increase the lead to 29-13 with four minutes left in the first half. In the final four minutes, K. Wands and Jak Kitchens each scored five points to increase the lead to 41-25 at the half.
Wands and Tabb opened the second half with back-to-back three-pointers to hold the solid Blue Jay lead, going ahead by as many as 19 points at the 15:55 mark after a Carter Wands layup.
The Griffins fought to pull within single digits, but the Blue Jays continued their hot shooting streak. Fontbonne pulled within 13 at the under 12 minute mark, but Brandt hit a key three-pointer to hold the lead to 16. Fontbonne then went on a 9-0 run to finally come within seven points of the lead with 8:45 to play. Westminster followed it up with a small 6-0 to maintain their lead on freethrows from K. Wands and Brandt.
As the Griffins began to heat up, Huot hit a key three-pointer with 6:02 to play to hold the double-digit Westminster lead and break up the Fontbonne run. After missing on the next possession, Huot answered a Fontbonne trey with a three of his own to hold the double-digit lead once again.
K. Wands hit four freethrows in a row with under three minutes left to keep the 10-point Westminster lead, but the Griffins pulled within eight points with under two minutes remaining. The Blue Jays continued to make key freethrows down the strech despite Fontbonne continuing to hit shots, maintaining their lead and ultimately logging the 86-75 win.
K. Wands ledd all scorers with 33 points, going 5-9 from behind the arc and a perfect 12-12 from the freethrow line.
"Kobe had an exceptional shooting night and we needed every point," said Mitchell. "I always feel fortunate to win a game during final exam week."
The Blue Jays remain at home for a nonconference battle against Buena Vista Monday at 2 p.m.