The University of the Incarnate Word held St. Francis, Illinois, to 28.6 percent shooting Friday night en route to a 63-49 victory, the first for Carson Cunningham as coach of the Cardinals.
With the win, UIW improved to 1-1 on the season and earned a measure of redemption after a 50-point loss at Texas Tech on Tuesday.
St. Francis remained at 0-0 as it played the game as an exhibition.
“It was nice to see the guys really working on defense,” said Cunningham, who was in his UIW home debut. “I thought they were really trying to execute the game plan on defense.
“Give St. Francis a ton of credit. They played great, and they played really hard. It’s nice to get the win. I think it’s also going to help us get better.”
UIW plays as an NCAA Division I program in the Southland Conference, and so St. Francis, an NAIA team based in Joliet, Illinois, entered the Convocation Center looking for an upset.
In the second half, the Saints put together a 15-4 run to take a 39-38 lead with 11:52 remaining. Undaunted, UIW scored 13 of the next 15 points to regain control.
After a fast break dunk by freshman guard Morgan Taylor, UIW was up, 51-41. St. Francis never got closer than eight the rest of the way.
Senior forward Charles Brown III came off the bench to score 14 points to lead the Cardinals, who shot 60 percent rrom the floor.
In addition, Taylor scored 11 in a team-high 34 minutes. Sophomore forward Christian Peevy added 10, all in the first half.
St. Francis point guard Terrion Howard, only 5-feet-4, led the Fighting Saints with 20.
Peevy came off the bench for 10 points, six rebounds and two assists in the half.
The game marked the home debut for Cunningham, who was hired last March to replace Ken Burmeister. Burmeister stepped down after 12 seasons as coach.
Cunningham, who worked the past five seasons at Carroll College in Montana, started four freshmen and a sophomore. He has eight freshman on his 15-man roster.
Moment of silence
A moment of silence was observed before the game for the late Simi Socks, a former UIW player who died last June.
Socks, a power forward, played in 80 games for the Cardinals over the past three seasons.
Near the end of the first half (see video above), St. Francis defenders cut off Peevy on the baseline. But Peevy dished between two men to freshman Bryce Davis for a layup.