FOREST CITY, Iowa -- Five Bruins scored in double-figures as the team shot over 50 percent from the floor but the Bellevue University men's basketball team lost a nail-biter to Waldorf University, 78-76, on Sunday evening in North Star Athletic Association action at Hanson Fieldhouse.
With the loss Bellevue returns to the 500-mark with a 7-7 overall record and 2-2 mark in NSAA play. Waldorf sees their record jump to 8-8 overall and 4-1 in league play.
Nick Hilton led five Bruins in double figures, scoring 17 points and hitting on five of seven three-point attempts. BJ Shelton (16, 8-11 FG), Brian Stokes (14, 5-6 FG), Jalen Hall (12), and Blake Wilder (10, 4-6 FG) all joined Hilton with double-digit scoring games. Hall added a game-high six assists and Austin Moore led the Bruins with five rebounds.
Falmata Tula hit all four of his three-point attempts and led all scorers with 22 points and matched Kaden Verdin (15 points) with a game-best seven rebounds. Brady Kuchinka was the third Warrior in double figures with 18 points and hit on four of six of his three-point tries.
Bellevue and Waldorf combined to hit their first four shots of the games as the Warriors and Bruins traded three-pointers on each of their first two possessions. Kuchinka and Tula sank long balls for Waldorf and Hilton hit a pair of triples for the Bruins inside the game's first 90 seconds.
The Bruins continued to shoot at a high rate through the 7:14 mark (75.0 percent, 15-20) when Hilton's fourth three-pointer of the half gave Bellevue a six-point lead, 38-32, their largest to that point.
After trailing 27-25 at the midway point of the first half the Bruins used a 22-13 run before taking a 47-44 advantage into the locker room. BU converted 62.1 percent (18-29) field goal attempts in the first half. Waldorf shot the ball well also with a 48.4 percent mark (15-31) to show for their efforts.
Both teams were above the 50 percent mark from deep with Bellevue hitting at a 55.6 percent clip and Waldorf shooting 66.7 percent from three through the first 20 minutes.
By halftime three different Bruins had scored at least 10 points led by Hilton's first half-best 15 points. Shelton and Hall added 10 points apiece in the offensive barrage.
Tula paced Waldorf with 12 points at the break while Kaden Verdin added nine for the host Warriors.
A 12-4 spurt by Waldorf out of the intermission saw the Warriors claim their first lead, 52-51 on a Trey from Tula, since midway through the first half before going on to push the lead to 56-51.
Bellevue struck back with six-straight points to reclaim the lead, 57-56, and the game stayed tight from there with neither team gaining more than a four-point advantage.
A 9-2 Waldorf run, started with back-to-back jumpers from Tula that included a layup and three-pointer from Kuchinka gave the Warriors a 76-72 lead with 2:21 showing on the game clock. Hilton then missed a three at the other end and Verdin secured the rebound as Waldorf called timeout with just 1:37 to play, still up by four.
BU had chances inside the final minute but the Bruins were unable to get anything to go down until Wilder hit a pair of free throws with 19 seconds to go. After a Bruin foul, Kuchinka sank a pair of free throws to restore Waldorf's two-possession lead, 78-74. Hall hit a jumper off a pass from Hilton at the other end to keep Bellevue's hopes alive with three seconds left.
Bellevue out-shot Waldorf for the game, 51-8 to 45.9 percent, but the Bruins were out-done 62.5 to 50.0 percent behind the arc.
The Warriors out-rebounded Bellevue 35-32, including a 14-8 effort on the offensive boards which led to a 16-11 discrepancy in second chance points in favor of the home side.
Bellevue will enjoy a 12-day break between games. The Bruins return to the hardwood on Friday-Saturday, Dec. 29-30 when they host MidAmerica Nazarene and College of the Ozarks in the Fairfield Inn & Suites Holiday Classic at the Gordon Lozier Athletic Center.