Cougars Advance in UCF Holiday Classic

In the opening game of the UCF Holiday Classic, the Chicago State Cougars advanced to the winner's bracket with their 98-89 victory over the Campbell Fighting Camels.

Chicago State led for much of the first half thanks to their two-headed scoring machine of senior guards David Holston and John Cantrell. After being down by as many as nine points, the Camels got back into the game and took a brief lead, 37-35 with a three-point shot by freshman guard Lorne Merthie.

Chicago State then finished the half on a 16-7 run to take a 51-44 advantage into the break. The Cougars were led in scoring by 5'9" senior David Holston, who bucketed 23 points on 7-13 shooting. John Cantrell also added 16 first half points on 6-8 shooting. Lorne Merthie paved the way for the Camels as he scored 10 points at the break.

Campbell wouldn't go away in the second half as they trimmed the Cougars lead to three points on a few occasions, but Chicago State would keep answering with big shots from Holston, the nation's second leading scorer. Chicago State finally grabbed some breathing room with 11 minutes to play as their lead swelled to 11 points.

Chicago State's David Holston may have been the smallest player on the court, as his listed height at 5'9" is probably inflated by several inches. What couldn't be inflated was Holston's talent as he was certainly the best player on the court. Holston was unconscious as he buried shot after shot from long distance, and scored a season high 40 points and added 10 assists.

"He's one of the best players in the country and we're fortunate to have him," Cougars head coach Benjy Taylor said of his star guard. He's a very conscientious basketball player, right now he's really mad about his 10 turnovers, that's just the type of kid he is."

Holston was forced to the bench with just over seven minutes remaining as he apparently tweaked his leg fighting for a rebound.

"It was just a cramp," Cougars head coach Benjy Taylor explained. "We've had a rough couple days getting down here, we had guys sleeping in baggage claim for two days with the flight delays."

With Holston out of the game, the Camels made a run and whittled the Chicago State lead to six with four and a half minutes left. Holston then returned for the final stretch and the Cougars held on with a 98-89 victory.

Jonathan Rodriguez led a balanced scoring attack for the Camels in scoring with 22 points on 8-14 shooting, and William Kossangue, Matt Gwynne, and Lorne Merhie each finished in double figures.

Chicago State will take on the winner of Penn-UCF game.

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