Anderson, Ind. – The Transylvania men's basketball team clinched a second-place finish in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference standings with a 96-89 victory over the Anderson University Ravens on Saturday afternoon at O.C. Lewis Gymnasium.
In winning their regular-season finale, the Pioneers finished off the 2018-19 regular season with a 17-8 overall record and 13-5 record in HCAC play, good for a share of second place in the conference standings along with Rose-Hulman.
By winning the season series against Rose-Hulman, the Pioneers have earned the No. 2 seed in next week's HCAC men's basketball conference tournament and a first-round bye.
Anderson wrapped up its regular season with an 11-14 overall record and 10-8 showing in HCAC play to clinch the No. 5 seed in the HCAC Tournament.
Transylvania claimed its best finish in the HCAC standings since the 2012-2013 season, when the Pioneers finished second in conference play with a 14-4 record.
Transylvania and Anderson squared off Saturday with high stakes with both teams jostling for positioning in the upcoming HCAC Tournament. Saturday marked their first meeting since the Pioneers dismantled the Ravens with a 50-14 second-half scoring output in their previous game one month ago.
On Saturday, the Pioneers again reached the 50-point mark in the second half, but the Ravens hung tight with Transylvania for the entirety of the afternoon as Transylvania outscored Anderson this time, 53 to 50 in the final period.
Transylvania was able to convert high-efficiency shots with regularity as sophomore guard Michael Jefferson delivered a magical bounce pass in transition to sophomore forward Dominque Turner to cap off a 6-0 run, forging a 14-14 tie with the Ravens seven minutes into the ballgame. Anderson responded with a 7-0 run, but veteran guards Cooper Theobald and Gabe Schmitt countered with timely jumpers that would be representative of an offensive response by the Pioneers all day long.
Freshman forward Zachary Larimore came off the bench to give Transylvania a lift with nine of his 10 points in the first half as the Pioneers outscored Anderson 43-39 in the first half.
Each team shot better than 50 percent from the field in the first half; Anderson used a 7-for-11 shooting performance behind the arc in the first half to keep afoot with the Pioneers while Transylvania went the entire first half without committing a turnover.
The Pioneers raised their shooting standards in the second half, hitting an astounding 22-of-31 from the field over the final 20 minutes.
Sophomore guard Will Sivills enjoyed a moment in the spotlight with five straight points, and junior guard Gabe Schmitt answered back at a three-point response by the Ravens with a triple of his own to keep the Pioneers ahead, 61-54 with 13:43 to go in the second half.
The Ravens kept within striking distance of the Pioneers throughout the second half and twice cut their deficit down to four points.
As the Pioneers led 78-74 with under five minutes to go, senior guard Cooper Theobald knocked down a key left side jumper to stretch the lead back to six. When Anderson struck back inside on the following possession, Sivills hit again, and the Pioneers offense continued to display its dominance.
Anderson inched within four with 1:14 left in the game, but Schmitt buried a devastating three-pointer with seconds remaining on the shot clock on the ensuing possession to push the Pioneers into the No. 2 seed.
The Pioneers enjoyed another prototypical night of scoring balance as seven different Pioneers reached double-digits in scoring, led by Schmitt's team-high 19 points on 5-for-9 shooting. Jefferson finished the game with 12 points, nine assists, two steals, one block, and one rebound. Theobald, Sivills, sophomore forward Lucas Gentry, and Hemmerich all reached double-figures in scoring.
The Pioneers now look ahead to the HCAC Tournament, which begins Tuesday evening with first-round games. With a first-round bye in hand, the Pioneers will begin their portion of the tournament with the HCAC semifinal on Saturday, February 23 at Hanover College. The Pioneers will play the winner of Tuesday's game between No. 3 seed Rose-Hulman and No. 6 seed Franklin at 7:00 p.m. at Collier Arena.
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