SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The seventh-ranked Westminster College men’s basketball team overcame a sluggish start to defeat Saint Xavier (Ill.), 73-70, to advance to the championship game of the 37th Annual Tom Byron Classic.
Westminster improves to 12-1 on the season and has won eight straight games heading into Saturday’s contest. The loss drops Saint Xavier to 11-4 on the year.
Westminster had a hard time getting into any rhythm during the first half and shot just 37 percent from the floor in the first 20 minutes. The Griffins overcame that poor shooting from the field by making five of their 10 attempts from beyond the arc. Blake Skidmore made all three of his attempts from deep in the half and finished with 11 points at the break. Westminster also took advantage of seven offensive rebounds for eight second chance points in the period.
The second half was tightly contested as neither team could pull away by more than five points until the final minute. Westminster continued to apply pressure and forced the Cougars into nine turnovers after the break and turned them into nine points. On the other end, the Griffins only turned it over twice in the second half and crashed the boards for 11 offensive rebounds.
Jake Orchard had a three-point-play with 6:01 remaining that put the Griffins up four at 62-58. It was the team’s largest lead of the game to that point and it would never trail again. Robertson made a layup at the 2:45 put the team ahead for good at 65-63. The final minute saw an offensive rebound from Colton Moon that led to two free throws by Jordan Hayter and then Robertson grabbed a rebound on the other end that led to free throws by Moon to seal the victory.
The Griffins overcame 37.5 percent shooting by grabbing 18 offensive rebounds. Those 18 rebounds on the offensive end are the most the team has had in a game since grabbing 18 against Biola (Calif.) on Mar. 19, 2009. Westminster also shot 76.9 percent at the foul line and made all four attempts it took in the final minutes. The Griffins scored 36 points in the paint and had 21 points off turnovers.
Robertson led the way for the Griffins with a career-high 21 points. He shot 9-of-19 in the game with seven rebounds and two assists. Skidmore finished with 13 points in the game while grabbing three rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench. Moon scored nine points and Alex Drecksel posted eight points and eight rebounds (six offensive).
Brad Karp led all scorers with 25 points for Saint Xavier. He shot 8-of-13 from the field and made eight of his 11 attempts at the foul line. Roosevelt Green had 13 points, seven steals and six assists while Anthony Grant scored 12.
The Griffins will move to the title game of the Tom Byron Classic on Saturday where they with face either William Jessup (Calif.) or No. 4 Westmont (Calif.) at 8:30 p.m.