LEWISTON, Idaho -- On the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic canceling the NAIA national tournament, the Carroll College men's basketball team rattled off a win over the Texas Wesleyan Rams, 85-58 on Friday.
The first half was one filled with grit as neither team was able to truly pull away in the first 20 minutes.
Ifeanyi Okeke and Dennis Flowers III led the way early for the Fighting Saints with nine points apiece in the first half. Okeke finished the afternoon with 10 points and three blocks and Flowers finished with 15 points, shooting 50% from 3-point range.
The Rams and the Fighting Saints were separated by just one point with 3:30 left in the first half, but a then-cold Jovan Sljivancanin began to heat up. Sljivancanin recorded seven of the Saints' next 11 points and added an assist on a Brendan Temple basket to put the Saints ahead 41-33 at the half.
Sljivancanin finished the day with 17 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and six steals.
The Rams spread the ball to open the half, which paid dividends as they were able to put together a 6-0 run in the first three minutes of the second half. Fighting Saints head coach Kurt Paulson was forced to take a timeout and it made a world of difference.
Out of the reprieve, the Fighting Saints went on an 18-1 run across the next 11 minutes of the second half to give Carroll a 19-point lead at 59-40 with 6:30 left in the matchup.
From there, the Saints were well in the clear en route to the 85-58 win. The Fighting Saints will now advance to the second round of their grouping to face the Arizona Christian Firestorm on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.