Belmont Abbey junior guard Justin Kuhlman recorded career-highs with 28 points and 11 assists as the Crusaders men's basketball team stormed ahead for good with 7:38 left and earn a key 97-88 road win at Pfeiffer this evening. The Crusaders improve to 9-13 overall and 5-7 in Conference Carolinas, while the Falcons drop to 5-17 overall and 2-10 in league play.
Kuhlman, who stayed on the floor for 36 minutes, scored 28 points on 7-16 shooting from the floor, including 3-7 from three point range, and made all 11 of his free throws. He added three rebounds and two steals. He led three Crusaders with at least 20 points as Darryl Durham netted 23 on 11-16 shooting and tied his career-high with 18 rebounds. Ryan Conrad added 20 and eight assists.
The first 17 minutes of the game was tight, as neither team was separated by more than three points until the Falcons closed with a flurry in the final three minutes to carry a 47-43 lead into halftime. Pfeiffer scored ten of the last 12 points of the half.
Pfeiffer maintained its lead through the first 13 minutes of the final 20 minutes, building its lead to as high as eight twice, the last coming at 58-50 with 15:19 showing.
From there, the Abbey took over the game, outscoring Pfeiffer 47-30 the rest of the way, but the Falcons held onto their lead until the 7:39 mark, when Kuhlman's jumper knotted the contest at 71.
Up until that point, the Crusaders pulled to within one point twice, but Pfeiffer had an answer both times.
Tied at 71, Pfeiffer missed a layup and Conrad turned it into the Crusaders taking the lead for good, burying a three pointer at the 7:25 mark.
Kuhlman's jumper started a 12-4 Abbey run-engineered by Conrad and Kuhlman-that gave the Crusaders an 81-75 lead with 5:24 to go.
Pfeiffer scored five of the game's next seven points to close the lead to 81-78, but Kuhlman swished two free throws at the 4:13 mark to push the gap back to 85-79.
30 seconds later, Pfeiffer drained a trifecta to pull the Falcons to within three, but Kuhlman responded with a running layup to make the game two possessions.
Durham added a layup to push the lead to seven, but a Falcons three pointer cut it back to five, but that was the last Pfeiffer field goal of the game. Needing a basket, the Abbey got one one its next trip, as Durham converted a fast break layup off of a Conrad pass with 2:10 to go to up the Abbey edge to 91-85.
From there, Pfeiffer made just three free throws, while Kuhlman sank four in the final minute-with Conrad adding two more-the last two coming with 24 seconds left to seal the win.