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Cougars beat #20 Saint Francis

The Mount Vernon Nazarene University men’s basketball team picked up a loss and a win last week, bringing their Crossroads League record to 6-6 as they head into the final few weeks of the regular season.

On Wednesday, the Cougars lost 89-83 to Grace College’s Lancers, who picked up just their second league win of the season. Freshman Trey McBride scored 19 points in the loss and sophomore Brett Vipperman added 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

“We had a couple bad breaks that didn’t go our way,” said Head Coach Jared Ronai. “Grace is a good team and well coached, and we have to give credit to them.”

Senior Josh Ashwill chipped in 15 points, eight assists, and three rebounds including his 1,000th career point.

Ronai said he is proud of Ashwill and the leadership he has shown on and off the court during his four years at MVNU.

On Saturday, the Cougars (17-7, 6-6) roared back with a 70-54 victory over No. 20 in the nation University of Saint Francis (16-8, 6-6).

“I’m at a loss for words. I am really proud of their defensive effort,” Ronai said following the game.

Vipperman matched his career-high 24 from Wednesday en-route to a 70-54 victory.

Vipperman called it a “big home win” and said that the Cougars “really focused on the defensive end,” which then ignited their offense during the game.

Senior Patrick Lucas chipped in six points, two rebounds and two assists in the “big-time win.”

In Lucas’ four years as a Cougar, and for two years before that, the Cougars have never beat Saint Francis.

“It really shows our capability moving forward,” Lucas said. Lucas said he is proud of the team and the way they played “fearlessly and together, clicking on all cylinders.”

Senior Deontae Cole added 16 points, and Ashwill recorded 11 points and six rebounds.

The Cougars will travel to Spring Arbor University on Tuesday just five games shy of first place in the Crossroads League. They sit two points behind third-place Taylor and three games behind second-place Indiana Wesleyan University.

As tournament play approaches, the Cougars must “focus on the things that have gotten us to this point,” Lucas said. “We must continue to become a great defensive team.”

The Cougars will tip off at Spring Arbor at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

To read the full story about Ashwill’s 1,000 career points, click here.

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