By BLAKE TOPPMEYER
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
The Quincy University men's basketball team waited and waited for a key shot to fall. It never did.
The Hawks rallied in the second half of Saturday's Great Lakes Valley Conference game against No. 10-ranked Southern Indiana, but they never could tie the game or take the lead and lost 78-70 at Pepsi Arena.
"I think we took a step in the right direction," said QU freshman center Jens Kennedy, who had 10 points. "We just have to hit more shots."
The Hawks (6-7, 1-4) had three shots that would have either given them the lead or tied the game midway through the second half, but they didn't drop. USI later provided some separation with an 8-2 run, and QU never could get in position to tie or take the lead again.
"We had them right there on the ropes, ... and couldn't make shots or couldn't make plays," QU coach Marty Bell said. "We got their best effort today, but I thought I got my kids' best effort. But it wasn't enough."
The Hawks lost their fourth straight GLVC game, and the last three have all been eight-point losses. QU is off to its worst start in league play since it started 0-7 in 2007-08. It wound up 9-10 in the league that season.
QU's Jordan Wilson made a jumper in the paint with 11 minutes, 34 seconds left in the first half to tie the game at 15. USI (10-2, 3-1) responded with a 9-0 run and never trailed again.
USI led 41-30 at halftime, but for the first time since an 81-74 win over Lindenwood on Dec. 1, the Hawks outscored their opponent in the second half.
"We made mistakes, but we made a strong push in the second half, which I was proud of," QU senior forward Tyler Thompson said.
Thompson's jumper with 11:41 to play trimmed QU's deficit to 49-48, and he made a pair of free throws with 10:04 remaining that cut USI's lead to 53-52.
Chris Babbitt and Kennedy had shots the next time down the floor that would've given QU its first lead of the game, but they couldn't convert. Shortly after that, Dalton Hoover's 3-point attempt that would've tied the game wouldn't fall.
USI scored two points on its next possession, QU never had another offensive possession when it was a one-possession game.
"I think they missed shots more than we forced them to miss shots," USI coach Rodney Watson said. "So we were very fortunate in that stretch. But then we came back and kind of got settled in and got some tough baskets."
Thompson led QU with 19 points and added eight rebounds. Babbitt reached double figures scoring for the ninth straight game, netting 17 points. QU point guard Grant Meyer tallied team highs with nine rebounds and seven assists.
Keith Dewitt's 22 points led five Screaming Eagles in double figures. DeWitt, a 6-foot-9 transfer from Division I Southern Mississippi, had a pair of dunks and a game-high 18 rebounds.
USI played four players who are at least 6-8 and outrebounded Quincy 51-43. The Screaming Eagles also outscored QU 23-12 from the free-throw line.
"Their inside presence, we didn't deny them the ball as well as we needed to in the post, and they took advantage of that," Thompson said. "That's what really hurt in the long run."
That, plus QU's 4-of-20 shooting from 3-point range.
"We played 40 focused minutes today," Bell said. "Our Achilles' (heel) was we had some great looks, and the ball just didn't drop."