Monday evening in Lourdes Hall, the St. Catharine College Patriots found out something that head coach J.T. Burton has been telling them for quite a while – the Mid-South Conference is a tough place to play basketball.
Fortunately for the Patriots they learned the lesson in time to claim an 83-77 win over the University of Rio Grande in the conference opener. “In practice and all of the pre-season I told them how good this conference is and what it takes to win,” said Burton whose team improved to 5-2 overall.
St. Catharine never trailed in the first half, leading by as many as seven points, before taking a 38-34 lead to the locker room. Kashiff Carr, who led all players with 28 points, scored 11 of those before intermission when both teams shot 45 percent from the field.
The RedStorm, who lost their conference opener at Campbellsville on Saturday and is now 4-3 overall, took their first lead of the game with 6:42 to play at 62-60. But the Patriots went on a 16-4 run to lead by 10 points with 3:04 remaining. Rio Grande did get back within three points in the final 20 seconds but the Patriots sank three of four free throws to ice the victory.
Stephan Pope and Brandon Johnson joined Carr in double figures for the Patriots with 20 and 18 points respectively. Pope also grabbed a game high 15 rebounds as the Patriots claimed a 41-38 edge on the boards.
“I think our guys understand how hard they have to play to win in this conference,” added Burton. “That is why we play such a tough schedule out of the conference, to help get them prepared.”
That tough non-conference scheduled continued last night when the Patriots visited Indiana University-Southeast, a team coached by former Louisville star Wiley Brown. It is back to conference play Thursday when the Patriots play at perennial power Georgetown. Another conference game follows on Saturday at Shawnee State in Portsmouth, Ohio.