Saint Francis dug itself a 17-point first half hole against 10th-ranked IU East Thursday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis and that deficit proved to be too much, as the No. 2-ranked Cougars fell 89-85.
The Red Wolves (11-4) led from start to finish, though the Cougars (12-2) trimmed the margin to one on two different occasions in the second half.
IU East took its biggest lead with just over two minutes remaining in the first half, as it stretched its lead to 42-25. However, Saint Francis rallied just before the break with a 7-0 run and trailed 42-32 at halftime.
Saint Francis allowed IU East to shoot 48 percent from the field in the first half, as well as 54 percent from 3-point range. Both of those numbers got worse in the second half.
The Cougars allowed the Red Wolves to shoot 64 percent from the floor and 66 percent from long range in the final 20 minutes.
Despite the lack of defense, the Cougars also shot well enough to get back into the game.
Saint Francis built on its late 7-0 run in the first half by opening the second half on a 9-0 run and the margin was just 42-41 after Cougar center Kyle Sovine scored at the 18:12 mark.
The Red Wolves recovered and got a basket from former Northrop High School standout Jacoby Claypool with 6:30 remaining in the game to take a 76-66 lead. However, Saint Francis had one last run in it and Sovine buried a 3-pointer at the 1:53 mark to make it an 81-80 game.
The Cougars closed the game by missing three of four shots, plus turning it over, while IU East got a steal from Claypool, as well as four points from him to seal the win.
Claypool finished with 16 points in 33 minutes.
IU East sank 17 of 19 free throws, while Saint Francis missed 11 of 20 from the free throw line.
Former Northrop center Aaron Thomas added seven boards in the win.
Sovine paced Saint Francis with 22 points and 11 rebounds, while Chandler White chipped in 15 points, seven boards, four assists and four steals.
Bryce Lienhoop and Perry Poindexter added 11 points each and a combined 11 boards for Saint Francis.
The Cougars will travel to the Bellevue (Neb.) Classic Wednesday and face Mid-America Nazarene (Kansas) at 4 p.m.