SAN JUAN, P.R. – The Birmingham-Southern men's basketball team defeated St. Mary's (Md.) 84-82 at the Puerto Rico Classic on Friday night to improve to 4-7 on the season.
A game-winning three-pointer from BSC senior guard Calvin Bak (Muscle Shoals, Ala./Muscle Shoals HS) was the deciding factor in the tight game that gave the Panthers their first win since Nov. 26.
Birmingham-Southern and St. Mary's fought for all 40 minutes, neither side gaining a strong foothold in the contest. In a matchup that saw nine ties and 15 lead changes, the largest lead for either side was seven points.
In the opening 20 minutes, Bak had the hot hand for the Panthers, hitting four of his six three-point attempts. Junior forward Christian Stewart (Irondale, Ala./Shades Valley HS) was also strong, scoring 10 points. Both helped the Panthers take a seven-point, 48-41 lead into the break.
In the second half, St. Mary's cut BSC's lead until the Seahawks tied it up 55-55 with just over 15 minutes to play and then took the lead with 10:56 to go. The Panthers and Seahawks traded baskets but with 3:45 to go, St. Mary's jumped out to their seven-point, 80-73 lead.
With time running low, BSC went on an 8-2 run in the next 90 seconds of play to pull them within one point of the Seahawks. A defensive stop forcing a missed layup gave BSC possession on the rebound and on the ensuing possession, Bak sank his decisive three-pointer from the corner to give the Panthers the 84-82 lead.
Bak's game-winner put his point total at 23 on the night, the team high. He finished the night shooting 7-of-10 from beyond the arch and 8-of-11 from the field. Stewart also scored 20 points while Conor O'Sullivan (Tower Cork, Ireland/Cork Institute of Technology) finished with a team-high 11 rebounds and junior Ben Spence (Memphis, Tenn./Christian Brothers HS) ended with a team-high nine assists.
The win for Birmingham-Southern was its fourth of the season, but it was also win No. 142 under head coach Chris Graves. With the victory, Graves moves into third all-time on the program's wins list, passing Murray Arnold. Only BSC Hall of Famers Duane Reboul (402 wins) and Bill Burch (175 wins) sit above Graves.
Birmingham-Southern will be back on the Hilltop for its next game on Sunday, Dec. 29. The Panthers will face Millsaps in their first Southern Athletic Association contest at Bill Battle Coliseum. Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m.
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