RIVER FALLS, Wis. – The Carthage College Red Men fought to the end on Tuesday night, cutting a late 17-point second half deficit to within five before falling at the #10 University of Wisconsin-River Falls, 77-71.
The loss drops the Red Men to 3-2 on the season, while the Falcons improve to 5-1 on the year.
"Very disappointing performance tonight," said head coach Bosko Djurickovic following the loss. "Maybe it was the second long trip in three days. I hope that is the case. We weren't prepared to play and compete against a really good basketball team. That is an experienced team that won their league running away last year. They were picked to win the league again this year, but like us I don't think they are quite as strong either, after losing two really good players. But the fact of life is, little things make a big difference in basketball games and that showed tonight with one assist through the first half to eleven turnovers and going 1-13 on threes, with that one being on a 30-footer at the buzzer. Second half we had some wonderful moments getting it back within two points and at the end we had them on the ropes in the final minutes. It is something to build on. You never like to lose, so now it's time to turn to Illinois Wesleyan on Saturday."
The first half did not go well for the Red Men who were coming off a 20-assist performance in a win on Saturday, as the Red Men had just one on their six made field goals in the half. Somehow the Red Men hung around for the first 20 minutes, taking their first and only lead of the night at 8-7 at the 14:15 mark of the first half.
However, the Falcons answered swiftly with an 11-0 run to give them their first ten-point lead of the half, as they paired hot shooting with a 0-3 effort by the Red Men and three turnovers.
Carthage cut the lead down to five at the 6:01 mark of the first half as Brad Perry received the ball in the paint and went over a pair of River Falls defenders for a dunk to make the score 20-15.
The first half ended on one of the few high notes for Carthage, whom started the game 0-12 from three, as Jordan Thomas banked in a half court three at the buzzer to send the Red Men into the half down 32-23. For Thomas, the three gave him team-high eight points at the break.
After exchanging baskets to open the half, Carthage forced a Falcons' timeout at the 11:34 mark following a 7-0 run as the Red Men cut the deficit to 43-40 with a pair of points from Thomas and Perry and a three from Brad Kruse.
A three moments later by Jordan Vedder reduced the deficit to two at 45-43 but as he did all night, River Falls' Alex Henrik answered with a three. His three ignited a 17-2 run to give the Falcons a 17-point lead with 3:49 remaining in regulation. Henrik finished with 23 before fouling out.
Carthage never gave up though, turning on the full court press to create a 15-4 run over 2:18 with eight points coming from Thomas and another six from Kruse to cut the Falcons' lead to just six at 69-63. Unfortunately it would be the closest that Carthage would get as River Falls would hold on to earn the six-point win.
Thomas led the Red Men with a new career-high 28 points on 9-18 shooting and Kruse added 17 in the losing effort.
The Red Men will now turn to conference action, as the Red Men will travel with the Lady Reds down to Bloomington, Illinois for a Saturday doubleheader to open the 2017-18 College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin season against Illinois Wesleyan University. Tipoff of the Lady Reds is at 5:00 p.m., with the Red Men following at 7:00 p.m.