By BLAKE TOPPMEYER
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
The Quincy University men's basketball team waited too long to turn up its game Thursday night.
After trailing by 15 points midway through the second half, QU trimmed its deficit to five points with under a minute to play. Yet, the Hawks never possessed the lead in the entire game and lost 79-70 to Missouri-St. Louis in Great Lakes Valley Conference action at Pepsi Arena.
"It was too late," QU senior forward Tyler Thompson said. "That's what probably the story was really. It was too late. I'm proud of how we just kept fighting. A lot of teams in this league and in the game of basketball wouldn't."
The Tritons led 62-47 after Joshua McCoy made a pair of free throws with 9 minutes, 35 seconds remaining in the second half.
QU's Ryan Stuckman then made a 3-pointer from the top of the key before draining a trey from the left wing on the next possession. On QU's ensuing possession, Nate Des Jardins drained a 3-pointer from the right wing.
A pair of free throws from Thompson with 6:18 to play capped QU's 11-2 run and trimmed UMSL's lead to 64-58.
"We started to play with some urgency, but when? When we hit three threes in a row," QU coach Marty Bell said. "We got some life when we hit three threes in a row."
Bell said it shouldn't have taken that long for the Hawks (11-13, 6-10) to find energy.
"You should have life right out of the gate when you've got three games left in the regular season with our playoff lives on the line," Bell said.
With Illinois-Springfield losing 68-56 to Maryville on Thursday, QU remains in the No. 11 position for the 12-team GLVC Tournament. The Hawks can clinch a tournament berth with one more win or one more loss from Rockhurst. QU, which plays 3:15 p.m. Saturday at Maryville, has two games remaining. Rockhurst has three games left.
"Coach told us we've got a choice," QU freshman center Dalton Hoover said. "We can either go through the motions these last two games or we can just suck it up and go get these last two."
QU trimmed UMSL's lead to 75-70 on a 3-pointer from Jordan Wilson with 34 seconds left but missed its three 3-point attempts after that while UMSL made 4 of 6 free-throw attempts in the final 33 seconds to seal the victory.
Quincy shot 46.4 percent from the field and received balanced production.
Chris Babbitt reached double figures in scoring for the 19th time in his last 20 games. He netted a team-high 19 points. Thompson tallied 17 points and six rebounds. Hoover scored 15 points and grabbed a game-high seven rebounds. That trio made 19 of 35 field-goal attempts.
The trouble was, UMSL (16-8, 9-7) started the game on a 14-2 run. Running their three-man weave offense to near perfection, the Tritons made four 3-pointers during that opening stretch and finished 11 of 23 (47.8 percent) from 3-point range.
"I think we were doing a lot of watching on defense instead of rotating and kind of just finding a man," Thompson said of Maryville's early run. "We were concerned about who our man was, and we kind of got lost in their dribble weave. And to their (credit), they knocked shots down. They stepped up and knocked shots down."
UMSL's Darian Cartharn was 5 of 9 from 3-point distance and scored a game-high 23 points, and McCoy went 3 of 6 from beyond the arc en route to scoring 22 points.
"We didn't come out with the defensive energy that we needed to," Bell said. "To start the game, we let Cartharn just go off and McCoy go off. You have to give those guys credit. They came in here and they played well.
"It's unfortunate that we didn't play with the urgency that we needed to for 40 minutes. Instead, we played it for about 15."