NORTH MANCHESTER, Ind.—After the first half ended in a tie and trailing by four points in the final four minutes of the game, the Transylvania University men's basketball team stormed back in the closing minutes to take a 78-74 win over Manchester University in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference road action. In a back-and-forth contest that saw seven ties and five lead changes, the Pioneers outscored the Spartans 8-1 in the final 3:48 of play to take the win.
In the first half, the Pioneers shot 62 percent (18-29) including going 4-8 from deep en route to a 45-45 tie at the intermission. After Manchester made the opening basket, the Pioneers scored on each of their first five possessions with five points from guard Lowell Gordon, four points from forward Robert Dence and two points each from guards Alex Jones and Cooper Theobald to give the Pioneers a 13-8 lead at the 16:38 mark in the opening period.
The hot shooting start continued for Transylvania, who watched their lead swell to its largest of the day with 9:21 to play in the half after guard Tristan Burgess knocked down a three-pointer to give Transy a 29-18 lead. The Pioneer lead would hold for the much of the remainder of the period, but Manchester went on an extended run over the closing minutes and found the teams were knotted up at 39 with 1:52 to play in the half. Forward Parker Stansberry and Jones combined to score six straight points for Transylvania but Manchester matched them shot for shot and knocked down two free throws after a foul at the buzzer to send the teams to the locker rooms evenly matched.
The second half was the Alex Jones show as he scored 18 of his game-high 28 points in the final 20 minutes. Trailing 58-50 with 12:21 left in the game, the Pioneers looked to Jones for an answer. He responded by scoring 14 straight points for Transy, making shots from all over the court. By the time Jones' tear was over, the Pioneers had recaptured the lead when Jones blew past his defender and made a layup at the 6:51 mark to give Transylvania a 66-64 lead.
Over the final six minutes of action the teams traded baskets back and forth but after a three-pointer from Manchester gave the Spartans a 73-69 lead, Transylvania made a concerted effort on the defensive end and held Manchester to just one point over the last four minutes of play. With 3:57 to play Burgess missed a shot from deep but corralled the offensive rebound and got the ball to Jones, who swung it around the perimeter and found Gordon, who connected on a three-ball of his own.
The shot cut the deficit to just one point and after the Spartans missed a three-point attempt on the other end, head coach Brian Lane called a timeout. Out of the timeout, Jones again found the ball in his hands and again found his way to the basket, slicing through the Spartan defense and converting a close-range attempt to give the Pioneers the lead with 3:08 to play.
Manchester almost found their way back into the game and came within inches of sending the game to overtime, but with 16 seconds left, the Spartans went 1-for-2 from the free throw line and Transylvania maintained a one point lead. The Pioneers responded by making three of their last four attempts from the stripe to seal the come-from-behind victory.
"We had big time energy during the comeback and had several guys make huge shots," said Lane. "We rebounded in the last five minutes like a team that really wanted to win. I'm really proud of these guys for picking up a great road victory.
In addition to his 28 points, Jones also contributed a team-high five assists. He was joined in double figures by Stansberry and Gordon who dropped 14 and 13 points each. Theobald and Gordon each pulled down six rebounds to lead the Pioneers and Burgess added five boards of his own, including two offensive rebounds.
The effort gave Transylvania (6-9. 5-3 HCAC) their fourth consecutive victory and puts them in a good position heading into the second half of the season. The Pioneers return to the court at the Clive M. Beck Center on Transylvania's campus on Wednesday at 7:30pm.