(Editor’s note: Carroll College media release)
HELENA — Jovan Sljivancanin had a game-high 19 points and pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds and the No. 7 Carroll College Fighting Saints scrapped their way to a 72-67 win over No. 22 Providence.
“It was a team effort and I’m really proud of this group,” Saints coach Kurt Paulson told Sports 94.9.
In a tit-for-tat second half, the Saints’ (23-5, 12-4 Frontier Conference) usual three-pointers didn’t fall, but their defense came through when they needed it most.
And in the waning moments of the game, the Saints clutching a one-point lead, Dane Warp came up big.
Match Burnham drove the lane and put up a difficult shot. As it careened off the rim, Warp nabbed it and reversed the ball back up and in to give the Saints a three-point lead with 25 seconds left.
Brandon Cotton took a wild shot on the other end and the Saints pushed the ball back up the court where Sljivancanin iced the game with an uncontested layup.
With senior starter Matt Wyman out with an injury, the Saints’ youngest players stepped up. In addition to Sljivancanin’s big night, and freshman starter Shamrock Campbell’s usual steady play, Eetu Villa came off the bench to pour in 11 points in 10 minutes of play and provided a streak of positive plays to power the Saints in the first half.
“Our game plan was Jovan and Eetu had to play well for us to win,” Paulson said. “They stepped up huge. These guys are only freshmen. We have three freshmen out there often with some upper classmen.”
Senior forward Match Burnham added 16 points for Carroll.
Freshman Jaxen Hashley paced the Argonauts with 19 points and six rebounds until fouling out with six minutes left in the game.
“Once he checked out of the game we got those offensive rebounds,” Paulson said.
After exploding in the second half, the Saints’ offense labored in the second half as both squads settled into tenacious defenses.
The win keeps the Saints atop the Frontier Conference standings. A win against Montana Tech will seal the regular season championship and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
The Saints travel to Montana Tech on Thursday.