FORT WAYNE – The No. 3 ranked Bethel College men’s basketball team fell to 26-4 on the regular season and 16-2 in the Crossroads League with a 80-72 loss to No. 19 University of Saint Francis Saturday afternoon.
The Pilots struggled defensively during the first half of the regular-season and conference finale allowing the Cougars to shoot 56 percent from the field connecting on 19-of-34 attempts. The Cougars poured on 38 points in the last twelve minutes of the first half to help give them a 51-38 lead at the half.
Guard Caleb Oetjen led the way for the Pilots during the first half with 11 points going 5-of-9 from the field, while sophomore forward, Paul Forman added 10 points.
The Cougars continued to extend their lead early in the second half, and with 16:39 owned the biggest lead of the night, 18. In the next few minutes, the Pilots responded going on a 10-2 run to cut the Cougar lead to just 10. With 2:12 left to play in the game the Pilots had cut USF’s lead down to one, but a pair of buckets from Bryce Lienhoop helped extend the Cougars lead to five. The Pilots continued to fight but couldn’t get over the hump falling short on the road.
Clay Yeo and Forman both led the way for the Pilots with 14 points each while Oetjen finished the night with 13. Junior Gage Ott recorded his third double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds. The Pilots finished the night shooting 41 percent from the field connecting on 25-of-61 attempts.
The Pilots improved defensively in the second half only allowing the Cougars to shoot 26 percent from the field while going 0-of-7 from behind the arc.
The Pilots, who won the regular-season league championship, move into Crossroads League Tournament action on Wednesday as they host Grace College. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.