LEXINGTON, Ky.—Transylvania's men's basketball team picked up a crucial Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference victory on Saturday, defeating the visiting Defiance College Yellow Jackets, 74-68. Transy rode a tough defense down the stretch and a potent offensive attack to down Defiance, forcing nine turnovers and holding the Yellow Jackets to 46% from the floor while knocking down 55% of their own attempts. Freshman forward Robert Dence gave the Pioneers a strong effort, racking up a team-high 19 points and pulling in five rebounds. All five Transy starters scored in double figures.
"Robert Dence gave us a tremendous lift when he came back into the game," said head coach Brian Lane. "Sam Sergeant showed a lot of toughness, especially down the stretch, driving it to the basket. Parker Stansberry hit some key buckets. I finally felt like our guys had the confidence to finish a game and get the win."
The pivotal play for the Pioneers came with 52 seconds left in the game after Dence forced a steal and was fouled by Defiance's Bernard Edwards. On the ensuing possession, Sergeant, a freshman guard, drove the lane and fought through contact to sink the layup and draw the foul. After making his free throw, the Pioneers held a three point lead with under 45 seconds to play.
After forcing another turnover, the Pioneers passed the ball ahead and sophomore guard Alex Jones was fouled. He would head to the stripe and sink both free throws and extend the Pioneer lead. Jones would knock down another free throw with eight seconds remaining to lock in the Transylvania victory and give them their winning margin.
"I thought we had tremendous poise down the stretch," Lane said. "When we had to have defensive stops, we were able to get the stop and the rebound. We knew this would be a difficult game and we handled it the way we needed to."
The Pioneers started the game down 1-0 after an administrative technical was assessed against Transylvania before the game started. Defiance knocked down one of two free throws to take the lead before the opening tip. The lead would not last long as freshman guard Sam Sergeant made a jump shot on the Pioneers' first possession of the game, giving Transy a 2-1 lead.
The first 20 minutes were closely contested as neither team took a lead larger than six points. The teams traded baskets and knocked down shots at a torrid pace as the Pioneers shots 53.6% (15-28) from the floor while the Yellow Jackets made 16 of 29 field goal attempts. After a foul by sophomore guard Alex Jones committed a foul, Defiance made two free throws with 16:43 remaining in the period to give the Yellow Jackets a 7-6 lead.
Defiance's Travis Schomaeker picked up a steal and went coast-to-coast, making a layup to give Defiance a three point lead, where the lead would remain for the next five minutes as the teams continued to trade baskets. At the 11:51 mark, Michael Parker of Defiance sank a three-point jumper to push the lead to six at 21-15, marking the largest lead of the half for the Yellow Jackets.
Transy would respond with a three of their own as freshman guard Jake Williams pulled up from the left wing and found the bottom of the net. It was Williams' and Transy's second three-pointer of the opening period. The Pioneers would step up the defensive pressure as they would force several missed shots from Defiance and after senior guard Tommy Sirkin picked up a steal, he dished the ball ahead to junior forward Parker Stansberry who nailed a three-pointer from the right side to tie the game at 23 with 8:25 remaining.
Over the remaining eight minutes, the lead for either team would remain at two or less until the half ended. The Pioneers would enter the break down just one point, 38-37. Sergeant led the way for Transy in the opening half with 10 points and the Pioneers led Defiance on the boards, pulling down 15 rebounds to the Yellow Jacket's 10.
Transylvania came out strong in the second half, forcing a turnover on Defiance's first possession and converting on the other end of the court to take a one point lead. After several minutes of back and forth action, the Pioneers began to make a move when Jones made a free throw at the 15:52 mark to give Transy a one point lead at 42-41
With the help of defensive pressure and good shooting, the Pioneers went on a 15-5 run, capped by a three-point play from freshman forward Robert Dence with 11:22 remaining in the closing period. The 11 point margin would be Transylvania's biggest lead of the game and provide them a solid cushion heading into the final ten minutes.
Defiance mounted a run of its own to challenge the Pioneers down the stretch and a jump shot from Bernard knotted the game up 59 with just less than seven minutes remaining. Transy kept its calm and with 6:38 left, Williams knocked down another three-pointer to give Transylvania a three point lead. Defiance would take the lead with 4:57 remaining but Jones responded on the other end with a jumper of his own to retake the lead for the Pioneers before a free throw from Defiance's Michael Kaminski tied the game at 66.Dence would give Transylvania the lead yet again at the 1:37 mark, knocking down a mid-range jump shot but Defiance responded with a layup of their own with 1:22 remaining to tie the game one final time before the Pioneers sealed the victory.
The win was Transylvania's first of the season and pushes their record to 1-5, including a 1-2 mark in HCAC play. The team will travel out west next week to take on Caltech in Pasadena, Calif. and the University of La Verne in La Verne, Calif. The Pioneers will return home on Sunday, Dec. 28 in the Don Lane Classic against Berry College.