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SOU throws scare into No. 4 ACU

PHOENIX, Ariz. — The Southern Oregon men’s basketball team had fourth-ranked Arizona Christian, an NAIA Division I school, on the ropes Thursday, but the Firestorm made nine of their last 10 free-throw attempts to seal an 81-76 win at the Firestorm Classic.

The Raiders (2-1 overall) trailed 64-53 late in the second half before reeling off a 13-2 run — capped by Joel Spear and Ben DeSaulnier 3-pointers and finally Spear’s dish to Clay Sierra for a layup that knotted the score at 66-all with 3:50 left. It was the first tie since the opening moments.

The Firestorm (2-0) answered with four straight free throws and another bucket to go up six. Two more DeSaulnier 3s cut it to 76-74, but Mike Navar’s loose-ball layup on the other end put ACU in the driver’s seat for good with 47 seconds remaining.

DeSaulnier — a victim of early foul trouble and SOU’s five first-half charging violatoins — scored 14 of his 16 in the second half, going 4-for-5 from downtown. Spear had 17 points and four assists with 5 of 8 marksmanship from outside, and Kenny Meyer added all 10 of his points in the second half to go with four assists and three boards. Clay Sierra was also impressive off the bench again with 13 points and a team-high seven rebounds.

ACU shot 41 percent compared to SOU’s 48 (including 12-for-23 on 3s), but forced the Raiders into 11 first-half turnovers (16 for the game) to take a 35-29 lead into the break.

Chris Sterling had 22 points and four 3-pointers and was joined in double figures by Brandon Newman (18), Bobby Gray (16) and Navar (10).

ACU was 18-for-22 from the free-throw line, while SOU was just 8 of 18.

The Raiders play Embry-Riddle (Ariz.) at 4 p.m. PST today.