After losing the first matchup between the two teams 61-60 on Jan. 14, Stuart Hall followed the lead of junior Armani Collins. The guard led all scorers with 28 points, scoring on a variety of jumpers, as well as showing his explosiveness with a couple of dunks.
Collins helped Stuart Hall (17-5, 6-1) build a nine-point halftime lead (31-22), with 12 points in the opening half, including his one-hand slam that gave the Knights a 27-16 lead with 2:20 left in the second quarter.
“[University] is a real good team, and the game got close, but all I said to the team was we have to fight harder and harder,” Collins said. “We did that and got the win.”
University (18-5, 5-2) dug itself a hole in the first half as it struggled from the field, shooting a meager 29 percent from the field and 2-of-14 from the 3-point line. However, the Red Devils got hot in the third quarter.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Brian Palmigiano helped University get within six points at 38-32, and the Red Devils only found themselves down 48-44 going into the final quarter.
The early deficit University faced was too much to overcome, as Stuart Hall nearly ran away with it in the fourth quarter. The Knights led 69-54 with 2:06 left in the game after sophomore point guard Axavier Byrd connected with Collins on a alley-oop.
“They came out with a lot of emotion and got off to a great start, and its tough to put yourself in a hole against a team as good as them,” University coach Randy Bessolo said.
When it looked like the game was over, University senior guard Jack Gale nearly willed the Red Devils back, scoring 11 of his team-high 21 points in the final quarter.
But Stuart Hall went 19-of-27 from the free-throw line and didn’t allow University to come all the way back.
“We fought back and we have nothing to be ashamed of,” Bessolo said. “We used a lot of energy in that third quarter and we didn’t have enough in the tank to pull it off in the fourth. I’m sure we’ll see them again, so to be continued.”