Twenty minutes after McKendree University defeated Missouri S&T 108-105 in overtime Thursday, the Bearcats still were trying to figure out how it happened.
“I’m going to be honest with you: I have no idea,” said McKendree freshman Nate Michael, who scored a game-high 30 points. “I don’t know what just happened. That was one of the craziest games I’ve ever played in. That was a remarkable comeback.”
The Bearcats trailed by 19 points with 9:01 to play, by 12 with 3:30 to play and by seven with 1:35 to play. But they sent the game into overtime on a basket by junior Michael Jackson, an O’Fallon High graduate, with 36 seconds left, then took the lead for good on a pair of free throws by Michael with 2:21 remaining in OT.
I don’t know what just happened. That was one of the craziest games I’ve ever played in. That was a remarkable comeback.
McKendree freshman guard Nate Michael
“We don’t know how we did it,” said Bearcats junior David Franklin, an Althoff High graduate who finished with 29 points and eight rebounds. “It was an ugly win, but a win is a win. We needed this to secure a spot in the playoffs later on in the year. We were down 19 and just kept fighting. That’s perseverance. That’s what we have with this team.
“They were playing not to lose instead of playing to win. Sometimes we’ve done that to ourselves during the year as well. You’ve got to keep being aggressive, and that’s what we did.”
They were playing not to lose instead of playing to win. Sometimes we’ve done that to ourselves during the year as well. You’ve got to keep being aggressive, and that’s what we did.
McKendree junior David Franklin
The victory was the 1,100th for 50th-year McKendree coach Harry Statham. On Saturday, Statham became the winningest coach at any four-year school in the country when the Bearcats defeated Maryville. Statham surpassed former Tennessee women’s coach Pat Summitt, who closed her career with 1,098 wins.
“We always talk about never being out of it,” Statham said of the win over Missouri S&T. “You’ve always got a chance. If you get stops and make big shots, things can turn around. We did that. It was an ugly game. We had way, way too many turnovers (27) and didn’t defend their outside game at all. We couldn’t seem to get on track and get going.
“But we finished up strong, which is the main thing.”
McKendree improved to 12-10 overall and 5-9 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. The Miners fell to 8-15 and 4-10 despite making 13 3-pointers and committing 18 fewer turnovers than the Bearcats.
Jackson added 24 points for McKendree, which shot 63 percent (35-for-56) from the field and went 31-for-36 from the free-throw line.
Senior Zach Ellis led Missouri S&T with 23 points off the bench. Five other players reached double figures for the Miners.
Trailing 97-85, the Bearcats closed regulation with a 14-2 uprising that tied the game at 99. Michael, who made a halfcourt shot at the buzzer ending the first half, missed an open 3-pointer that could have won the game in the final seconds of regulation.
But Michael, who picked up his fourth foul with 12:28 to play in the second half, put the Bearcats ahead 104-103 with two free throws with 2:21 left in overtime, then hit a short jumper to make it 106-103 with 1:13 remaining.
Ellis cut the gap to 106-105 with two free throws with 43.9 seconds left. After each team had an empty possession, Franklin sank a pair of free throws with 12 seconds to play to make it 108-105. Senior Desmond Buerge missed a fallaway 3-pointer with three seconds to play, and McKendree senior David Newton grabbed the rebound as time expired.
Michael, who was 13-for-14 from the free-throw line, has 70 points in the last two games. He scored a career-best 40 points in Statham’s landmark victory Saturday.
“We put out a heck of an effort on Saturday to find a way to win that big game, and then we were coming out here and not giving that same effort that we’ve been giving for the last month,” Michael said. “But we gave it a little extra effort in the last 10 minutes and it paid off with a ‘W.’”
Michael said he’s never had 70 points in two games.
“Most importantly, it’s two wins,” he said. “The rest of it doesn’t matter. Two big conference wins puts us in the race to get into the conference tournament. That’s been our goal the whole year. Whatever I can do to help us win, I’m willing to do it.”
McKendree 60, Missouri S&T 42 (women)
The Bearcats used a 14-0 run during a span of 4:45 in the fourth quarter and posted their most lopsided GLVC victory of the season.
Junior Emily Pusheck came off the bench to lead McKendree, matching her career-high with 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting from the field.
“It was just working tonight,” Pusheck said. “We were working the ball well and passing it around. We had a lot of assists and I was able to capitalize.
“This was a big win. We needed it, especially going into Drury on Saturday.”
Senior Kelsee Ennis added 11 points for the Bearcats (11-13, 6-8). Junior Shannon McGinnis chipped in with nine points and freshman Jordan Morton had nine rebounds.
McKendree outrebounded the Miners (7-14, 3-11) 40-28 and outscored them 18-2 on second-chance opportunities. The Bearcats had 16 assists and shot 46 percent (26-for-56).
Bearcats coach Kari Kerkhoff lauded the work of the 6-0 Pusheck.
“She did an awesome job tonight connecting with the rim,” Kerkhoff said. “I think a big part of it was just how we moved the basketball. I feel like a lot of her shots were off of people either penetrating and kicking or somebody helping in on the post and us getting it to her. She was just open and hit those open shots. She was in rhythm and had confidence.”
The Bearcats played without 5-7 senior guard Kacey Johnson (concussion), their second-leading scorer at 8.7 points per outing and their steals leader with 40.
“She hopefully will be back on Saturday,” Kerkhoff said. “It’s just kind of a mild (concussion). We’ll evaluate it again (Friday) and see how things go.”