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Men’s College Basketball: Lewis stays unbeaten with win over St. Francis

St. Francis' Mark Peters shoots over Lewis' Brad Foster. | Dennis Nelson/For Sun-Times Media

St. Francis' Mark Peters shoots over Lewis' Brad Foster. | Dennis Nelson/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 6, 2014 1:15PM

The St. Francis men’s basketball team threw every defense it could at Lewis during Wednesday night’s tussle in Joliet.

Lewis responded by notching a season-high 18 assists and going 17-of-22 from the free-throw line during a 74-64 victory. The win puts Lewis at 5-0, its best start since the 1996-97 season. St. Francis fell to 2-7.

“I thought we shared the ball really well,” Lewis coach Scott Trost said. “We had 18 assists. When they were manning (man-to-man defense) us, I thought we did some really good things. We hit some threes and did some good things in the post with our inside-out game. Any time you can win by 10 points on the road, we’ll take it.”

Lewis’ largest lead was 56-32 after two free throws by Julian Lewis (Homewood-Flossmoor) with 14:21 left in the game. St. Francis switched to a zone defense and closed to within 66-59 on a three-pointer by Matt Sherriff. However, Lewis went on an 8-2 run to put it away.

“We had to do something to change the rhythm of the game,” St. Francis coach Ryan Marks said of going to a zone defense.

“I thought we played pretty good for about 30 minutes,” Trost said. “Then they went zone, we relaxed and were tentative at the end. With the exception of the last seven or eight minutes, I thought we played pretty well.”

“We played good for 32 minutes and let up there at the end,” Lewis said. “But we’re happy we’re 5-0.”

Lewis, a 6-foot-5 junior forward, led the visitors with a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds. Ryan Jackson added 17 points and Kyle Nelson had 10 points.

“We have a lot of experience and when we move the ball around and play defense like we know we can, we’re tough to beat,” Lewis said.

Sherriff hit 6-of-7 from beyond the arc to lead the Saints with 18 points. Chris Miller chipped in 13 points.

“Offensively, I thought we were sharp when we executed well,” Marks said. “In the second half, we had an emotional carryover from the defensive to the offensive end. Toward the end, we regained our composure.”

Tied at 14-all, junior guard Gabe Williams hit a three-pointer to give Lewis the lead for good with 12:59 left in the first half. Lewis led 38-28 at the half.

and outscored St. Francis 28-4 in the paint.

“We want to accomplish more than that, but these guys have worked hard to get where we’re at,” Trost said of the Flyers’ best start in 17 years. “These guys just need to trust in the process and believe in each other.”

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