Louisville, Ky. – Storming back from two double-digit deficits, the Transylvania men's basketball team finished the 2016 calendar year in stride with a 71-68 victory against the Spalding University Golden Eagles at Derek Smith Gymnasium on Saturday night.
Transylvania improved to 6-5 with the victory on New Year's Eve, marking the first time the Pioneers have been on the plus-side of .500 since opening night.
The furious and captivating victory featured a chaotic and entertaining night analogous of the year that was 2016.
A game that was delayed by 90 minutes after officials did not show for the scheduled 5:00 p.m. tip-off proposed to delay a potential hot start for the Pioneers. Spalding jumped ahead of the Pioneers 8-1 before a short runner from sophomore forward Gullett provided the first field goal of the game for the crimson-clad visitors.
Spalding embarked on another mini-run to take a 16-6 lead; consistent offensive rebounding early by Spalding plagued the Transylvania efforts to terminate defensive possessions as the Eagles hit six of their first eight three-point attempts.
While the Pioneers took care of the basketball the first ten minutes, only committing two turnovers, they were able to force just one turnover by Spalding during that juncture.
After falling behind 34-13 with just over seven minutes left in the first half, the Pioneers increased their defensive intensity while attacking the rim with consistency. Freshman guard Gabe Schmitt came up with a steal that led to a layup by fellow freshman guard Spencer McKinney.
The possession spurred a 21-2 Transylvania run that drew the Pioneers to within two before a halfcourt buzzer beater by the Eagles created a 39-34 halftime lead. The Pioneers forced seven turnovers over the final 7:11 to improve their offensive production.
As they did to begin the game, the Eagles came out firing to extend another double-digit lead to start the second half. Spalding used a timely 8-0 run in less than two minutes to take a 53-40 advantage.
The Transylvania freshman led a sudden response again, as McKinney's layup with 11:22 remaining ended the Spalding scoring run. Schmitt then chipped in with the next seven straight Transylvania points to pull his team within six at 55-49. Junior forward Tristan Burgess buried his second 3-pointer of the game at the 9:10 mark of the second half to cut Spalding's lead to 55-52.
Transy's run ballooned to 18-2 when sophomore forward Bo Schuh was hit from behind on an offensive rebound, garnering an intentional foul on Spalding. Burgess nailed both free throws to give Transylvania a 56-55 lead, and senior guard Alex Jones scored a layup for a four-point trip.
Spalding closed the game fiercely, erasing a 65-60 Transylvania advantage as it returned to the inside game for success. The Eagles went on a sudden 8-0 run, capped off by a go-ahead three from James Turner with 1:26 left that threatened to shift the momentum Spalding's way.
But McKinney answered back with a game-tying three with 1:09 left in regulation, and forced a steal on the other end of the floor to give Transylvania a chance for heroics.
The Pioneers executed to perfection, as Jones set up Schmitt for a near straightaway 3-ball that would serve as the game-winning shot with 15 ticks of the clock. Spalding could not convert on a game-tying three the other way, and the Pioneers sealed up a savory win to conclude the 2016 calendar year.
Transylvania scored a staggering 26 points off of turnovers, compared to just eight for Spalding in that category. McKinney led the Pioneers in scoring with 17 points to go with five rebounds and four steals. Jones had 16 points, four assists, and three rebounds for Transylvania, while Schmitt and Theobald added 12 and 10 points, respectively.
The result marked the second time in three games that the Pioneers have erased a double-digit second half deficit and won on a go-ahead game-winner with 16 seconds or less. (Transylvania rushed back from a 15-point second-half deficit against Ohio Northern on December 21 for a 86-84 win that came on an Alex Jones tip-in at the buzzer).
The win was also victory number 249 of head coach Brian Lane's career. He currently sits second all-time on the total wins list for Transylvania coaches, one spot below his father and predecessor, Don Lane. Coach Brian Lane has his first chance to hit the 250-win mark this Wednesday.
The win propels Transylvania on a four-game win streak to end 2016. The Pioneers will resume conference play on January 4, when it hosts the Earlham College Quakers at the Beck Center. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.
For more on Transylvania men's basketball, follow their official twitter @TransyHoops