By THE HERALD-WHIG
LIBERTY, Mo. -- Chris Babbitt sensed early Thursday afternoon he might be primed for a big game later that evening when the Quincy University men's basketball team faced William Jewell.
"It started off in shootaround," said Babbitt, QU's junior guard. "I saw I was focused, I was going hard. My shots were falling. I was feeling real good."
Babbitt felt even better after his career-high 27 points helped the Hawks defeat WJC 56-55 in Great Lakes Valley Conference action at the Mabee Center.
It was a much-needed win for the Hawks (9-11, 4-8) after they lost both their games last week and continue to battle to be one of the 12 teams that earn a berth in the GLVC Tournament. The win completed QU's season sweep of WJC. The Hawks beat the Cardinals 83-60 on Jan. 26 at Pepsi Arena.
"It was real key for us," Babbitt said of Thursday's win. "It got us back believing in each other, believing that we can stay together and can still win games."
After Babbitt carried the load for QU throughout the night, senior forward Tyler Thompson made the play to give the Hawks the win. WJC's Devonte Bell tied the game at 55 by converting a conventional three-point play with 19 seconds remaining, and the Hawks called a timeout with 13.8 to play.
They set up isolation on the right side of the floor with point guard Nate Des Jardins on the right wing and Thompson on the right block. Des Jardins slipped a pass into Thompson, who drew a foul with 3.2 seconds remaining. Thompson made the first free throw and missed the second.
"We just had to execute that play, and that's what we did," Babbitt said. "(Thompson) made a good, strong play to the hoop and got to the free-throw line. It was just good execution."
WJC's Cyril Bilong made a 3-pointer from about 30 feet that would've given the Cardinals (9-11, 5-7) the victory, but he clearly attempted his shot after time expired.
Thompson, who finished with nine points, four assists and a team-high eight rebounds, made a pair of free throws with 37 seconds remaining to give Quincy a 55-52 lead.
"What a tremendous effort from him tonight," QU coach Marty Bell told ESPN 1440. "(Thompson and Babbitt) are the guys who have to do it for us, night in and night out."
The teams combined for 29.4 percent shooting in the first half, and WJC had a 17-16 lead at halftime.
Babbitt was 5 of 8 from the field before halftime and scored 10 first-half points. He finished 13 of 19 from the field and made his living in the paint and on midrange jumpers.
The Hawks followed his lead after halftime by making 65.2 percent of their second-half field-goal attempts.
"We got to the basket, and that's what we didn't do in the first half," said Bell, whose team wraps up a two-game road swing by playing Rockhurst on Saturday. "We didn't get the ball to the basket, and in the second half we did."
Quincy played zone for much the game, and the Cardinals struggled their way to 38.6 percent shooting, including 4-of-19 (21.1 percent) shooting from 3-point range.
"We knew their offense keyed on throwing it down low to the big men," Babbitt said. "We packed it in kind of, and we were all together helping out down low so they couldn't throw it in there. We were getting a lot of hands on the ball when they tried to lob it in to the big men."
Craig Mattson led WJC with 14 points, and Dillon Deck and John Taylor added 13 apiece.
Quincy received a boost from Jordan Wilson, who supplied seven points, five rebounds and four assists off the bench.