LEXINGTON, Ky.—A second-half comeback attempt fueled by a resilient Pioneer defense that forced 15 turnovers fell just short, as the Thomas More Saints topped the Transylvania University men's basketball team, 75-69, Wednesday at the Clive M. Beck Center.
In the second half, the Pioneers (4-6) clawed their way back into the game. The Saints added to their first half lead with a three-pointer from Nate McGovney to extend the lead to 14 less than a minute into the second half. The 14-point deficit was the largest of the game for the Pioneers, as a long ball from junior forward Parker Stansberry narrowed the Saints' lead back to 11.
The Pioneers slowly erased the deficit with a 13-4 run over the next 4:43 to pull within four, 47-43, with 13:27 left to play. Midway through the second half, two free throws by sophomore guard Alex Jones cut the Saints' lead to 54-49. A key factor to the Pioneers' run was improved offensive rebounding in the second half. The Pioneers pulled down 10 offensive rebounds in the second half to only three in the first half.
"We kept fighting to get back in the game," head coach Brian Lane said. "I think the offensive rebounds in the second half showed that we were much more aggressive."
Minutes later, a steal by Sam Sergeant led to a Jones lay-up that cut the lead to 61-59, but another timely three-point basket by Thomas More kept the game just out of Transylvania's reach.
For the game, the Saints held off the Pioneers' runs shooting 8-of-19 (42 percent) from behind-the-arc. The Pioneers managed one final push as Sergeant cut the Saints' lead to 69-67 with just 55.7 seconds remaining in the game. However, late free throws by Thomas More sealed the victory for the Saints as Transylvania fell 75-69.
Stansberry netted the first basket of the game to put the Pioneers up 3-0 less than a minute into play following a Stansberry steal on Thomas More's first possession. The Saints got on the board on their next possession and sparked an 18-8 run capped by a three-pointer from Daniel Williams to give Thomas More an 18-11 lead with 11:29 left in the first half.
"I thought we had a 10-minute stretch in the first half we really lost our intensity," Lane said. "It put us in a hole that we had to try to dig out of the rest of the game."
The Pioneers were able to close in on the Saints' lead, but another three-ball from Thomas More gave the Saints a 27-15 advantage with 6:51 on the clock. The Pioneers, again, narrowed the Saints' lead, pulling within five, 29-24.
Thomas More, however, put together a 9-2 over the final 3:07 to take a 38-26 lead at the break.
"Thomas More was much more aggressive and ran the floor harder during the key stretch in the game in the first half," Lane said.
Stansberry posted a game-high 19 points, along with seven rebounds and two steals in the loss. Freshman forward Robert Dence logged his first career double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Jones added 12 points and Sergeant added 11 points Saturday. Both finished with five assists in the game.
The Pioneers return to Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference play on Saturday, Jan. 3 at Anderson (Ind.). The game tips at 4 p.m.