BELMONT, N.C. - The Pfeiffer men's basketball team (3-10, 0-4 CC) held the highest scoring team in the league to nearly nine points below their season average, but fell to Belmont Abbey (6-8, 2-2) 80-78 on Wednesday evening. Freshman Mike Smith scored a game-high 29 points on 11-of-18 shooting from the field, and AJ Clark added 20 points for the Falcons.
The Crusaders were paced by Chris Davis who scored 22 points. Justin Kuhlman added 17 off the bench and Darryl Durham and Ryan Conrad each scored 14 points.
Pfeiffer held Belmont Abbey to 44.3 percent shooting from the field, well below their season average of 48 percent. Belmont Abbey is coming off a 104-point performance against Lees-McRae where they shot 55.4 percent.
Smith and Davis came into the contest second and fourth in the conference in scoring respectively, and each topped their season average. Each stepped up their play in the second half as Smith went for 17 points and missed only two shots, while Davis had 14 second half points and hit all six of his free throws.
In the contest, neither team had a lead larger than eight points. That lead came at 20-12 with 9:01 left in the first half, but the Falcons used a 15-4 run to take a 27-24 advantage. Pfeiffer continued to pressure and Joe Ledbetter's basket in the lane gave Pfeiffer a 35-28, their largest of the night. Kuhlman converted a three-point play just before the end of half to cut the lead to 35-31 going into the half.
A 13-6 run to start the second half gave the Crusaders a lead they wouldn't relinquish. The Falcons would continue to fight and a three from Clark cut the deficit to 68-67 with 4:36 left. Belmont Abbey scored five straight but Clark and Smith each converted two free throws to make it 74-73 with 33 seconds to go. Kuhlman hit two free throws with 20 seconds to go and Clark went 0-for-2 on his attempts, forcing Pfeiffer to foul Davis with 9 seconds to go. Davis hit both free throws and put the game away.
Ledbetter came off the bench to score 10 points and grab nine rebounds in 23 minutes of action. Pfeiffer shot 52.6 percent from the field in the contest, their best shooting performance on the season. However, they were hurt at the charity stripe, converting only 61.9 percent from the line.
Smith and Clark continue to be the highest scoring duo in the league and Smith has led the Falcons in scoring every game this season.
The Falcons return to action on Saturday when they travel to Lees-McRae for a 4 p.m. contest.