Pioneers utilize multiple clutch performances to rally past Franklin at the Beck Center

Jefferson driving

Lexington, Ky. – The Transylvania men's basketball team rallied from a late six-point deficit to defeat the Franklin College Grizzlies, 76-72 at the Beck Center on Wednesday evening for its fifth win in its last six games.

In a fast-paced game full of momentum swings and lead changes, the Pioneers relied early on its youth before passing the baton to their veteran players to close out a gritty game to move to 10-6 on the year and 7-2 in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference play. Franklin fell to 2-7 in HCAC play and 4-12 overall.

With the Pioneers wrapping up the first half of their league schedule on Wednesday, Transylvania maintained a share of first place in the HCAC standings along with Rose-Hulman and Hanover, all with conference records of 7-2.

Sophomore forward Lucas Gentry enjoyed an irrepressible night, registering career-highs of 10 points and 11 rebounds to notch his first-ever double-double. The sophomore added two assists, a steal, and a block in the victory.

Gentry was one of four double-digit scorers as the Pioneers unfurled another balanced scoring night, led by sophomore guard Michael Jefferson's 13 points on 5 for 7 shooting from the floor.

Transylvania overcame a slow start as the Grizzlies erupted for their only double-digit lead of the night at 14-4 in the first four and a half minutes of the contest. Junior guard Gabe Schmitt came off the bench to knock down back-to-back jump shots for five of his 12 points on the night to cut Franklin's advantage to 14-9.

Gentry, sophomore guard Devin Twenty, and freshman forward Zachary Larimore each hit jumpers to bring the Pioneers within one at 16-15 to assume momentum. The Pioneers overcame seven early turnovers to twist the turnover margin in their favor, taking a 28-26 lead on senior guard Cooper Theobald's runner with 4:19 left in the first half.

Franklin used inside scoring to retake the lead at 31-28, but Gentry and junior guard Spencer McKinney each responded with scores to put Transy out in front, 33-31 with under two minutes to go in the half.

Jefferson struck first for the Pioneers out of the halftime break in another one of his signature second-half performances, carving inside for two of his 10 second-half points to catalyze an eventual seven-point lead for the Pioneers. Gentry collected another bucket and Jefferson went 2-for-2 from the charity stripe as the Pioneers grew the lead to 10.

With their three-point attack laying mostly dormant, the Grizzlies hit four of five three-pointers over a three and a half minute stretch to take a shocking 57-51 lead. Jefferson responded with another thrilling drive, followed by a critical three-pointer from straightaway by Schmitt to thin Franklin's lead to 57-56 with 6:59 remaining.

After Franklin's Kale Morris knocked down another triple for a suddenly hot outside shooting team, the Pioneers outscored Franklin 9-4 as Theobald maneuvered into the paint to hit a floater to give the Pios a 67-64 advantage with 2:13 to go.

The Grizzlies twice cut the deficit back down to one point within the final minute, but Jefferson came up with an athletic tip-in off his own missed runner and Theobald slashed for an and-one bucket to put the Pioneers up, 72-69.

The Grizzlies came up with a three-point shot following two made free throws by Schmitt that cut the Pioneers' lead to 74-72 with 12 seconds remaining, but Theobald hit two final free throws to bring the Pioneers to the finish line.

Theobald finished the game with 12 points, two rebounds, and a steal while shooting 4 for 6 from the field and hitting 4 of 5 free throws.

Transylvania shot 46 percent from the field to nudge off Franklin's 6 for 12 second half from three-point range. The Pioneers thrived in transition as they scored 27 points off 18 Franklin turnovers. The Pioneers improved to 7-1 at the Beck Center in the 2018-19 season. 

The Pioneers will begin their second stanza of conference play on Saturday as they head up north to Bluffton, Ohio to take on the Bluffton University Beavers. The game has been moved up to a 2:00 p.m. tip-off time to follow the women's contest between the two schools at 12:00 noon.

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