Baker (20-10) only hit eight shots from the field in the first half and both teams combined for only four points in the first six minutes of action.
“I thought our guys came out a little timid to start,” said Baker head coach Brett Ballard. “Our guys have never really played in an environment like this before, I thought as the game went on we adjusted nicely. I give our fans and administration a lot of credit tonight for all the support we received."
Baker took its largest lead of the half heading into the break with a 20-15 advantage.
Benedictine (15-15) took what would end up being its largest lead of the game just four minutes out of the break, opening up the second half with a 9-0 run to grab a 24-20 lead.
The Wildcats and Ravens exchanged leads five times down the stretch before Baker finally pulled away with 22-6 run over the last eight minutes of regulation.
“Benedictine is a good team,” Ballard added. “It helped in our preparation that we just played these guys six days ago.”
Jordan Honore finished with a game-high 14 points and Ben Steinlage added 10. Joe Wachter (6 points) and Kevin Lysaught (8 points) also played key roles, sinking 3-pointers in Baker’s closing run. Bench scoring was also critical as the Wildcats outscored the Ravens 29-2 off the pine.
Baker will have its hands full on Friday as the Wildcats travel to second-seeded Evangel University (23-8, 14-4 HAAC) for a 7 p.m. tipoff in Springfield, Mo.
“We’re going to have to get to the basket against those guys and try to get their bigs in foul trouble,” Ballard said. “Coach Jenkins is in his 29th season down there and is up there as one of the top coaches in the nation. Our guys will be ready to go though.”
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