HANCOCK - With a nine-point lead early in the second half, the Finlandia University men's basketball team appeared to be in good shape against visiting College of St. Scholastica Saturday afternoon.
But the lead - and ultimately the game - vanished in a space of 10 minutes in a 79-68 defeat at Paavo Nurmi Gym.
A 28-9 run by the Saints in that spell turned a 45-36 deficit into a 64-54 game that all but settled the issue.
"I think it was a case of us being careless with the basketball," Finlandia coach Terry Smith said. "And you have to give St. Scholastica a lot of credit. They turned up the defensive intensity and turned the momentum around in their favor."
Out of 10 trips up the floor in the tellate stretch, the Lions turned the ball over eight times.
CSS coach David Staniger said a change in defensive strategy turned things around.
St. Scholastica - Jonah Dahlman 10, Brett Tester 21, Scottie Rucks 15, Jake Naslund 5, MarShaan Johnson 7, Cole Mortel 10, Alec Mortel 4, Tyler Rosenberger 2, Steve Golobich 3, Mike Spoden 2. FG: 28-59; FT: 16-22; Rebounds: 28 (Tester and Johnson 6) Fouls: 15; Fouled out: None; 3-point FG: Rucks 3, C. Mortel 3, Golobich 1).
Finlandia - Matt Strong 3, Keith Arnold 7, Dominic Morrow 13, Jon Moore 19, Ben Coleman 12, Allante Denson 8, Dylan Schroeder 3, Luke Paul 3. FG: 26-59; FT: 8-12; Rebounds: 44 ( Moore 13); Fouls: 18; Fouled out: None; 3-point FG: Moore 2, Strong 1, Arnold 1, Paul 1, Schroeder 1, Denson 1, Coleman 1.
Halftime score: FU 30, CSS 32.
"Our guards got much more aggressive, we increased our ball pressure and got a lot of deflections," Staniger commented. "I think that was the major difference."
Some excellent inside play by Jon Moore and Dominic Morrow staked the locals to a 40-32 halftime lead.
And things looked promising when Matt Strong nailed a triple and Keith Arnold connected on a put-back hoop for the aforementioned 45-36 spread.
Brett Tester keyed the second-half barrage by the Minnesota team, netting 12 of his game-high 21 markers.
Smith said the 20 turnovers commited by his 1-9 team were disturbing because of their nature.
"I would call them unforced, for the most part," Smith said. "We can't afford to do that and win games."
Moore, the junior from Ecorse, had a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Morrow added 13 points and 10 boards in a solid showing and Ben Coleman put in 12.
Allante Denson netted eight points, while Arnold had seven points and seven assists.
Four Saints reached double digits, led by Tester's 21. Scottie Rucks put in 15 and Jonah Dahlman had 10 points, 6 steals and 4 assists.
Finlandia won't play again until a Dec. 29 game at Defiance College.