LEBANON — After a big overtime victory Monday over Illinois-Springfield, McKendree was in no mood to relinquish momentum.
Sizzling shooting made that a reality Thursday as the Beatcats pulled away in the second half for a 102-91 victory over St. Joseph's in a Great Lakes Valley Conference game.
The victory enabled McKendree (8-7 overall, 2-5 GLVC) to surpass its win total of last season when it was 7-21.
"We got our first (league win) the last time out, and we're trying to get a spot in the playoffs," McKendree coach Harry Statham said. "We need to win some of these games at the end. I think it's important to win, and also our sights are on getting into the playoffs."
The Bearcats, who led 50-48 at halftime, were 38-for-57 from the field (67 percent) and had five players reach double figures.
Junior Matt Holmes led the parade with 26 points on 13-for-16 shooting as he exploited the Pumas' soft interior that allowed 58 points in the paint. Junior Arthur Williams came off the bench and had 18 points and nine rebounds, while senior Clinton Happe had 17 points and four 3-pointers.
Junior Logan Carson had 16 points and junior Mike DiGregorio finished with 14. Junior Mike Springs had nine assists.
Carson, who had missed the last two-plus games with a concussion, had two loud dunks and two 3-pointers.
"It was just rough sitting on the bench watching them. I couldn't play," said the 6-foot-5 Carson, of Du Quoin. "I want to be out there with my team battling for wins. I was ready to go. In the shootaround, I was all excited with lots of energy."
Carson was hit in the head against Lewis on Jan. 16 after having previously being sidelined by illness.
There were no signs of anything slowing him down in his return to the lineup. He had back-to-back 3-pointers in a 51-second span in the second half that helped the Bearcats take control.
McKendree trailed 59-58 before hitting the Pumas with a 21-6 run that gave it a 79-65 lead with 9:54 to play.
Carson had a dunk in each half to dazzle the crowd of 515. He said they were the result of adrenaline.
"I love being athletic, running and trying to make highlight plays to help my team win," said Carson, whose jumping ability is similar to former Bearcat Eric Hobbie. "He could get up. I've seen YouTube videos (of him). He could get up. I've seen him do some dunks I can't do. He's done some tough dunks. He has natural hops."
McKendree withstood a 27-point performance by St. Joseph's junior Cameron Vines, the leading scorer in the conference. Jon Smith added 23 points and David Hill had 16.
"I thought we got a lot out of Logan Carson tonight," Statham said. "He's been ill from the break, then came back for a game or two and got cut. He hadn't worked out until (Wednesday), so he was pretty sharp considering all the time he's been out.
"I think as he gets back in shape, he's going to get better and better --with more confidence. He hasn't played much for us."
Statham fell in front of the Bearcats' bench with 14:03 to play in the first half. As he reacted to a shot that didn't go down, Statham slipped on some water and went down.
"I couldn't believe it," Statham said. "But I got up pretty quickly. It surprised me. You're always woried about the ice out there on the driveway and then there's water by the bench. Somebody's trying to sabotage me, I think."
McKendree 70, St. Joseph's 65
The Bearcats hit the Pumas with a 15-0 run early in the second half and they needed every bit of it as they stopped their losing streak at six.
St. Joseph's (3-12, 1-7) trailed 32-29 at halftime but tied the game at 32 on a 3-pointer by junior Kiki Lyons 16 seconds into the second half. That's when the Bearcats (7-8, 2-5) reeled off 15 consecutive points to assume control of the matter.
The push opened with a basket by senior Brittany Willis. Sophomore Liz Gilman followed with a 3-pointer and a runner, and junior Caty Ponce, of Edwardsville, canned a 3-pointer to make it 42-32 at the 17:37 mark.
McKendree wasn't done, as Gilman swished two free throws and Ponce drained another trey to make it 47-32.
The Pumas weren't totally flustered by their predicament, however, as they proved when they whittled their deficit to 68-65 on another 3-pointer by Lyons with 21 seconds to play.
Ponce iced the victory with two free throws with 9.3 seconds remaining.
Ponce led McKendree with 13 points despite 3-for-14 shooting from the field. Ponce also had four assists. Gilman had 12 points and freshman Emily Pusheck came off the bench and chipped in with 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting. Freshman Amber Alexander had five assists.
Lyons topped the Pumas with 15. Sophomore Courtney Kvachkoff had 12 points and senior Tonisha Sanders had 10 points and nine rebounds.
McKendree shot 45 percent from the floor (26-for-58) with 17 assists. The Bearcats had 22 points off the Pumas' 16 turnover. St. Joseph's shot 38 percent (23-for-60).
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.