Wildcats suffer first loss of season to UC Santa Cruz

Wildcats suffer first loss of season to UC Santa Cruz

DENVER – A five-game win streak to start the season came to an end Sunday for the Johnson & Wales men's basketball team.

The Wildcats (5-1) erased a five-point halftime deficit and held a lead with under four minutes to play, but a tough day at the free throw line cost JWU in a 73-69 loss to visiting UC Santa Cruz at the Wildcat Center.

A 3-pointer by freshman Charles Young corkscrewed around the rim twice before falling in to make it a one-point game with 18 seconds left. After Simon Mueller-Landsvik made 1 of 2 free throws for UCSC, senior Jontrell Herman missed a potential game-winning 3 at the other end in the closing seconds.

Senior Andrew Romero III led all scorers with 25 points on 11-of-18 shooting, adding five rebounds and three assists. Herman (Duck Hill, Miss.) finished with 21 points to go with a team-leading eight rebounds and five assists. Young (Park Hill, Colo.) scored nine points and had three assists and two steals.  

Senior Will Crain led the Banana Slugs (4-3) with 24 points and eight rebounds. Senior Sam Gabbard totaled 15 points and 11 boards for the visitors, who scored 44 points in the paint and had 21 second-chance points.

JWU shot 37.9 percent in the first half (11-of-29), resulting in a 35-30 deficit at the break. The Wildcats quickly climbed out of the hole and took a 39-38 lead five minutes into the second frame on a layup by Romero. Neither team led by more than four points the rest of the way in a game that had nine ties and had eight lead changes.

The Wildcats struggled out of the gates in their second home game of the 2018-19 campaign, falling behind 4-0 before ripping off an 11-2 run to get back in it.

A 72.2 percent free-throw shooting team on the season, JWU made just 8-of-15 from the stripe (53.3 percent) and had 14 turnovers to 12 assists.

Coach Quintin Grogan's team returns to the court Tuesday for its SCAC conference opener at Colorado College. The doubleheader features the women's game at 5:30 p.m. and the men's game at 7:30.