LAKELAND, Fla.—It wasn’t the start you’d expect from a team averaging 87 points per game, but the finish was strong.
The Fire shot 51% from the field in the second half, and held the Wildcats to just 32% from the field in a 71-59 win at The Furnace Saturday night.
Down 38-37 with 12:21 left in regulation, Southeastern (14-8, 7-6 TSC) buckled down defensively, holding JWU 0-for-4 with three turnovers for the next 4:37, and built a 54-39 during a 17-1 run.
During that run, the Fire were 6-for-9 from the field.
However, the Wildcats (6-17, 4-9 TSC) refused to go quietly, answering right back with 10 straight points to cut the SEU advantage to six (54-48) with 5:35 left. Southeastern turned the ball over three times, and missed three field goals during the three-minute JWU run.
A lob from Ismael Celestin to Deion Fields for a two-handed dunk plus a foul got the crowd into the game and helped the Fire stop the comeback attempt. Johnson and Wales was held without a point from the 4:32 mark of the second until a layup by Gino Fils-Aime with 49 seconds left.
At halftime, the Wildcats held a 28-26 lead, despite shooting just 34% from the field. The Wildcats were able to balance out the rough shooting night with stellar free throw shooting, going 10-of-11 from the line in the first 20 minutes, and finished 22-of-28.
JWU was held to just 1-of-16 from bonus range.
Josiah Barsh and Ryan Atkins each scored 18 points for the Fire, with Barsh adding five rebounds and an assist. Atkins hauled in six rebounds. CJ Reese and Jeremy Oppenheimer each had four assists, with Reese adding 11 points.
Fields was the top rebounder with eight, and added 12 points.
The Fire return to action on Saturday at home against Ave Maria.