Poor Shooting Dooms Elmhurst in 79-64 loss to NCC

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ELMHURST, Ill. – The Elmhurst men's basketball team had its four-game winning streak snapped in a 79-64 loss to #18 North Central College.  

Elmhurst (20-4, 10-3 CCIW), ranked ninth in the latest D3hoops.com poll, could not overcome a poor shooting night and North Central hitting six three-pointers in the second half.  The Bluejays fell to 20-4 overall and 10-3 in the CCIW with the loss. Elmhurst now sits in sole possession of third place in the CCIW standings.

Elmhurst scored the first five points of the game and led 9-4 after four minutes of action, but the Cardinals quickly answered back, using a 10-0 run over the next three minutes to build a 14-9 advantage. Buckets from Kenny Payonk and Eric Leonard sandwiched between a Payton Wyatt three-pointer sparked a 7-0 run from the Bluejays and put Elmhurst back in front by two at 16-14.

North Central (18-6, 11-2 CCIW) tied the game at 20-all and led 26-24 before a 5-0 run gave the Cardinals their biggest lead of the half at seven points with 2:30 remaining. Buckets from Kyle Wuest and Payonk pulled Elmhurst to within three with just under 40 seconds left, but a Kevin Honn jumper gave the Cardinals a 33-28 lead at the half.

Elmhurst struggled with its shooting in the opening half, hitting just 12-of-38 shots (31.6) from the floor and only 2-of-6 from downtown. North Central attempted nearly half of its shots from long range, hitting 3-of-13 from beyond the arc (23.1 percent), while hitting 11-of-27 total shots in the half (40.7 percent).

Elmhurst pulled even on a pair of occasions in the second half, knotting the score at 35-35 and again at 42-42.  North Central answered back on each occasion, building a quick five-point lead at 47-42 after Alex Sorsenson knocked down a three-pointer. The Bluejays pulled to within a point at 47-46 with 10:40 remaining following a layup from Brandon Schwebke, but Elmhurst came no closer as the Cardinals connected on four three-points over the next five minutes, including back-to-back shots from Jayme Moten that turned a slim Cardinals' lead into a 11-point cushion. Elmhurst came no closer than nine points for the final four minutes of play as North Central sealed the contest from the foul line by hitting 14-of-15 attempts in the game's final two minutes.

Elmhurst hit just 23-of-72 shots in the loss (31.9 percent), including just 6-of-20 (30.0 percent) from three-point distance. The Bluejays won the rebounding battled 45-42 while outscoring North Central 32-20 in the paint.

Bryant Ackerman led Elmhurst in the loss by scoring 12 points and pulling down five rebounds. Ackerman now sits at 998 points for his career. Erik Crittenden added nine points while Wuest and Payonk finished with eight points apiece. Peyton Wyatt and Schwebke each scored seven points in the loss.  Will Nixon was the team's top-rebounder, pulling down nine boards to go with six points and four blocked shots. Eric Leonard totaled a team-best six assists and four points.

 North Central finished the contest shooting 42.9 percent (24-of-56) from the floor, including 39.1 percent (9-of-23) from downtown. The Cardinals connected on 6-of-10 attempts from beyond the arc in the second half. Erwin Henry poured in a career-high 28 points to pace North Central in the win. Henry shot 8-of-11 from the floor and 10-of-11 from the foul line while also collecting eight rebounds. Sorenson finished with a double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds. Moten added 17 points for the Cardinals while Kevin Honn and Connor Raridon each scored nine.

Elmhurst closes out the regular season by traveling to Illinois Wesleyan University next Saturday, February 20.