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Men's Basketball - Tue, Dec. 17, 2013

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- It was an exciting game in the Fultz Memorial Gymnasium Tuesday night, as the No. 6 Firestorm made a thrilling run in the second half to take down NCAA Div. III No.2-ranked Wooster College (OH), 62-60.

Both teams entered game two of the ACU Classic undefeated with Arizona Christian at 9-0 and Wooster at 8-0. Wooster belongs to the NCAA Div. III and is the winningest team in all of the NCAA in the past decade.

"That was a fantastic team effort tonight," said head coach Jeff Rutter. "I couldn't be more proud of how we fought back after a slow start. Wooster is a perennial national title contender and extremely well coached team that doesn't make a lot of mistakes. They don't give up a lead like that very often."

The Fighting Scots proved their Top 2 ranking in the first half, as they kept the Firestorm scoreless in the first four minutes of the game, 9-0.

Jackson Helms would record the first bucket for the Firestorm, but Wooster's Xavier Brown would respond with a three giving them a 10 point lead at the 15:23 mark, 12-2.

The Scots held the Firestorm to a 33.3 shooting percentage from the field and played some tenacious defense causing the Firestorm to turn the ball over seven times. Xavier Brown led the way for the Fighting Scots going 5-for-7 from the field and 2-for-3 from beyond the arc with 12 points and two steals.

"Wooster really took it to us on both ends of the court," said Rutter. "They out executed, out hustled us, and consequently out played us. We tried to do too much on our own on the offensive end. We are not very good when we play that way. Our bench gave us a good lesson that when you play hard and unselfish, good things will start to happen for you."

The Scots finished the first half with a 7-2 run to take a 14 point edge going into the break, 40-26.

In the start of the second, Wooster increased its lead to 19 at the 15:09 mark, but in a two minutes span Arizona Christian would cut the deficit to 12 after a Martin Kim 3-pointer. Kim's three would ignite the crowd and give the Firestorm the extra momentum they needed to start their comeback. In fact, Arizona Christian would hold the Fighting Scots scoreless from 15:09 to 9:47 and would cut the deficit to six after a Rodney Hudson layup. Wooster would answer back after Doug Thorpe dropped a 3-pointer to push the lead back to nine, 53-44.

Talib Uqdah, who has been the leading scorer for the Firestorm was held scoreless in the first half, but managed to catch fire in the second knocking down a deep three ball to push Arizona Christian within five, 53-48. Mason Jones would deliver a monster block on the next possession against Wooster' Dan Fanelly and then find himself open in the corner to can a huge three bringing the Firestorm within two at the 7:19 mark.

Wooster wouldn't back down and found itself up by seven with five minutes left in regulation, but Arizona Christian would respond with three huge defensive stops and some key baskets from array of Firestorm players. Mateus Oliveira made a pretty move inside the paint to deliver the first tie of the game at the 3:10 mark. Arizona Christian finished the game on the charity stripe going 4-for-4 with Oliveira and Uqdah. Uqdah hit back to back free throws keeping the Firestorm undefeated and edging out the Fighting Scots, 62-60.

"I think our pressure wore them down as the game went on," mentioned Rutter. "They had a season high 15 turnovers and had a tough time making shots down the stretch. We executed very well late in the game. We are starting to see things and make some reads that we were missing a few weeks ago. It's exciting to see the improvement and to see guys step up and make big plays when we needed them."

In fact, Arizona Christian outscored the Fighting Scots 31-10 in the final fifteen minutes of regulation.

The Firestorm finished the game shooting 41 percent from the floor and was led by Rodney Hudson, who finished with 11 points. The bench played a significant role tonight as Hudson, Kim, and Jones combined for 26 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists.

"Rod Hudson, Derek "DJ" James, and Martin Kim changed the course of the game with their defensive effort tonight," said Rutter. "Mason hit some big shots for us, and Dan and Mateus gave us a lift defensively as well. When we had nothing going on the offensive end that group came out and put forth an effort on defense that created opportunities for us. We will certainly enjoy this win tonight, but we will quickly turn our focus to Evangel. We will need to play very well to have a chance Thursday."

Arizona Christian will take on No. 5-ranked Evangel University in the Great Falls Classic on Dec. 19 at 3 p.m. (Arizona Time). The game will be played at Scottsdale Community College.