By BLAKE TOPPMEYER
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
Marty Bell figured he might get a pick-me-up talk from his wife about moral victories sometime Thursday night after his Quincy University men's basketball team lost 77-69 to No. 6-ranked Kentucky Wesleyan at Pepsi Arena.
As for Bell and his Hawks, they weren't about to embrace any talks of there being a silver lining to QU's third straight Great Lakes Valley Conference loss.
"We're in conference play, there are no moral victories. You have to go out and win," Bell said.
Even if some people might see it as a moral victory.
"That's what my wife says. That's what wives are for," Bell said. "But no one in that (locker) room felt like it was a moral victory. No one felt that we should be satisfied with the outcome."
QU senior Tyler Thompson shared Bell's feelings.
"There's no satisfaction in this at all, not for me at least," said Thompson, who had 13 points and eight rebounds. "When you come to play, you come to play to win."
QU (6-6, 1-3) led 27-19 after Grant Meyer drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 7 minutes, 6 seconds remaining before halftime, and the Hawks took a 35-31 advantage into the break.
But QU's trend of second-half struggles flared up again.
KWC (11-0, 3-0) took control with an 11-0 run in the second half, after which the Panthers led 52-44 with 10:46 to play. From there, KWC's lead never dipped below five points.
In the Hawks' last six games against Division II opponents, they've been outscored 260-167 in the second half. QU led at halftime in each of those games, but lost four of them.
"We have to look at ourselves, each and every single one of us," Thompson said. "Something needs to be done. It's nothing with a snap of a finger or some magical thing that we haven't been doing. We have good players. We have good coaches. We have a good team. What's frustrating is, we're not proving that.
"We do (have a good team), and I believe that with 100 percent of my heart and my soul. ... We're not making that last step, and it's frustrating."
QU junior guard Chris Babbitt kept the Hawks in the contest. He netted a career-high 25 points to go along with seven rebounds. He was 10 of 14 from the field.
"I just let myself get into the flow of the game, got my teammates involved and took it from there," Babbitt said.
Babbitt gave the Hawks a shot of life in the second half when he slammed a dunk off an alley oop feed from T.J. Riggs. That put QU ahead 37-35 with 17:46 remaining.
Babbitt picked up his third foul with 15:07 remaining and went to the bench for the next 5:44. That's when the Panthers went on their run to take control.
Bell said that even if he had a chance for a redo, he'd still sit Babbitt during that stretch, adding that it was critical to make sure Babbitt didn't get his fourth foul early in the second half.
QU simply needed to make a run at some point like the Panthers made.
"We have to play for four minutes like Wesleyan did to us," Bell said. "When are we going to start doing that to teams? When are we going to start initiating those kind of runs and get on a roll like that?"
Lucas Barker and Dazmond Starke had 20 points apiece for KWC, with Starke adding 11 rebounds.
Quincy benefited from 5-of-12 3-point shooting in the first half before going 2 of 9 from beyond the arc after halftime.
The Hawks also held KWC to 37.9 percent shooting from the field before halftime before the Panthers made 56.5 percent of their second-half attempts.
"I thought we did a better job (getting the ball inside) in the second half. And we were more patient," KWC coach Todd Lee said. "I thought (the Hawks) were more physical in the first half. I thought we did a better job in the second half."
KWC sealed the win by going 8 of 10 from the free-throw line in the final 1:35 after QU had closed the deficit to 69-64 on Thompson's two free throws with 1:38 remaining.
The Panthers were 23 of 30 (76.7 percent) from the free-throw line overall, compared to QU's 14 of 23 (60.9 percent) mark.
"We're just not doing enough things to win the close ones," Bell said. "You have to do the little things. You can't go 14 for 23 from the line. You have to go 21 of 23 to beat a team like that."