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SAINTS HOLD ON FOR CRUCIAL ROAD WIN AT MADONNA, 71-70

The Aquinas men’s basketball team completed a big season sweep of Madonna on Saturday afternoon (Jan. 20) in Livonia, Mich., as the Saints survived a potential game-winning jumper on the final possession of the game to win, 71-70. Including AQ’s 70-66 win over the Crusaders on Dec. 2 in Grand Rapids, the Saints won twice over Madonna this year by a total of five points.

Saturday’s victory is the fourth straight for Aquinas, all in WHAC play. The Saints are now 9-4 in conference action and 13-10 overall. Coming into the game tied in the league standings, Madonna drops to 8-5 in the WHAC and 14-8 overall.

AQ appeared to be in control with 3:22 remaining and a 67-58 lead, however Madonna scored seven straight points to make it a 67-65 game with 1:36 to play. On the Saints’ next possession, Rob Deiz (JR/Detroit, Michigan) buried a three-pointer off a Deric Murray (FR/Ann Arbor, Michigan) feed to put Aquinas ahead 70-65.

Madonna responded with a three-pointer of their own and a 70-68 score with 52 ticks to go. Arsenio Arrington (SR/Chicago, Illinois) split two free throws to keep AQ on top 71-68 with 30 seconds to play, but the Crusaders again answered. Jonathan Swift scored on a layup and was fouled with 18 seconds to go. His game-tying free throw, however, was off target, as was the follow-up tip-in attempt.

After a second offensive rebound on that play for the Crusaders – and three timeouts between the two teams – Madonna had one final shot for the win. The long stepback corner jumper was no good and Rashaud Orange (JR/Grand Rapids, Michigan) corralled the rebound to seal the thrilling road win.

Deiz led the Saints offensively, making 8-of-10 shots and 4-of-5 three-pointers for a team-best 20 points, while adding six boards, two assists, and a steal. Arrington reached double-digits again with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting.

Murray provided nine points, four rebounds, and three assists, while AJ Atwater (SO/Otsego, Michigan) hit a pair of trifectas and scored eight points off the bench. Frank DeVos(JR/Chesterfield, Michigan) pulled down a team-high seven rebounds and Opeyemi Sholesi (SR/Columbus, Ohio) added six points, five rebounds, three assists, and two steals.

As a team, Aquinas shot a stellar 50.9 percent from the field and made 8-of-21 three-pointers. Madonna was not far behind at 48.1 percent on its field goal tries, but was just 5-of-14 from long range. The Crusaders did go 15-of-22 at the stripe, while AQ was 9-of-16.

Madonna led by as many as seven points in the first half, including a 19-12 edge seven minutes into the contest. A layup from DeVos and two Murray free throws helped Aquinas begin to chip away at the deficit. Consecutive jumpers from TJ Hunter (JR/Flint, Michigan) and Murray pulled the Saints within a bucket at 27-25 with 6:01 to go.

Orange would tip-in a missed shot and Deiz drained a three-pointer late in the half to help Aquinas pull even at halftime, 36-36. AQ took its first lead of the game in the second half and went up 41-36 on Hunter’s three-pointer.

A pair of free throws from Sholesi and a Deiz three-pointer made it 46-39 four minutes into the second half. The lead grew to a game-high 10 points at 52-42 on an Atwater trifecta with 14:03 to play. Aquinas would maintain the advantage and stay in front 67-58 after layups from Deiz and Arrington to set up Madonna’s furious comeback in the final minutes.

The four-game winning streak has capped season sweeps of both Lourdes and Madonna and put the Saints into sole possession of third place in the WHAC with the 9-4 tally.

Aquinas heads to Fort Wayne on Wednesday night (Jan. 24) for an 8:00 p.m. tipoff with #5 Indiana Tech. The Warriors (11-2 WHAC) upset #1 Cornerstone (11-1 WHAC) on Saturday in overtime, 74-67.

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