LEBANON — McKendree University's late flurry finally fizzled Friday.
The Bearcats trimmed a 14-point deficit to one in the final seconds, but fell 69-63 to Missouri-St. Louis in a Great Lakes Valley Conference game. The Tritons clinched the outcome with five free throws in the final 14.8 seconds.
"UMSL's an extremely talented team. I'm very impressed with their team," Bearcats coach Melissa Ringhausen said. "They came in and gave us a great game. Our girls had a very good effort in that game, but we've got to match the fundamentals now.
"We made a lot of silly mistakes. They came in numbers. In the GLVC, that's not going to be a good situation for you. We've got to get those mistakes under control and not compound a mistake with another mistake."
Junior Caty Ponce, of Edwardsville, paced McKendree (6-4 overall, 1-1 GLVC) with 20 points. Senior Brittany Willis had nine.
UMSL (9-1, 2-0) got 20 points and three 3-pointers from senior Alyssa Like, who was 9-for-10 on free throws. Seniors Devonna Smith (13 points, 16 rebounds) and Hazaria Washington (13 points, 13 rebounds) each posted a double-double.
The Tritons led 54-40 after Smith hit a layup with 9:01 to play. McKendree, however, surged back and drew within 64-63 on Willis' first 3 of the season with 16 seconds to play.
Smith made a free throw with 14.8 seconds left to make it 65-63, but she missed her second attempt and Ponce got the rebound.
Ponce got the ball ahead to Willis, who raced downcourt while being defended by junior Alexis Lawrence.
Willis lost the handle on the ball near the baseline, to the left of the basket, and officials ruled it went off her rather than Lawrence.
"Caty Ponce questioned herself (about) passing the ball," Ringhausen said. "But Brittany can hit layups. She's going to knock that down 95 percent of the time. She just bobbled it. It's an unfortunate happening."
After the McKendree turnover, Like was fouled, and her two free throws with nine seconds left sealed UMSL's win.
"I never really felt like we had control or momentum in this game," second-year UMSL coach Katie Vaughn said. "It's a grind. You just have to find a way to win every night, and that's what we did tonight. It wasn't pretty, but we found a way to win."
UMSL was 25-for-71 from the field (35 percent), but committed just eight turnovers and outrebounded McKendree 50-35. The Bearcats were 25-for-56 from the floor (45 percent) with 12 turnovers.
McKendree led 18-8, 22-13 and 26-18 in the first half. But the Tritons' 14-2 run in the last 4:30 gave them a 32-28 lead at the break. Lawrence's 3-pointer put UMSL on top 28-26 --its first lead since Smith scored the first basket of the game.
The Bearcats took a 33-32 lead early in the second half on a basket by Willis, but the Tritons regained control with a 17-3 uprising over the next 5:46. Washington had six points in the breakout.
"Basketball is a game of runs," Vaughn said. "It's just kind of what team gets the most of them and capitalizes on them. The momentum swung a couple of different ways this game."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.