Lexington, Ky. – The Transylvania men's basketball team extended its season-high win streak to eight games as it fought off the Manchester University Spartans, 73-66 on Saturday afternoon at the Beck Center.
The Pioneers had moments of brilliance and others where consistent shooting was hard to come by, but a 20-point second half lead gave them the necessary distance for their fifth conference victory of the season.
Transylvania improved to 10-5 overall, and 5-3 in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference play to stay in fourth place in the conference standings.
Freshman Gabe Schmitt led a balanced scoring output for the Pioneers' starting five with 18 points, pacing the team in outside shooting with a 4-for-8 night from downtown. Sophomore guard Cooper Theobald supplied 16 points on another efficient 7-for-8 output from the floor along with eight rebounds.
Sophomore forward Kyle Gullett had a busy day with 15 points, six rebounds, and four blocks, while freshman guard Spencer McKinney was the other Pioneer in double-figure scoring with 12 points, four rebounds, and two assists.
The Pioneers and Spartans spent the first eight minutes of the game jousting, before a 13-0 run from the Pioneers created the gap that Manchester would spend the rest of the afternoon trying to close.
While a jumper from Manchester's Erik Bell stopped the run with 6:16 left in the first half, his bucket was sandwiched by two 3-pointers from Schmitt to expand the Pioneers' lead to 14. Manchester hit a late triple to draw within eight of the Pioneers, but McKinney was fouled on a drive with two seconds left in the half and hit two free throws to send Transylvania into halftime with a 34-24 lead.
Gullett scored seven of the Pioneers' first 11 points out of the break as the Pioneers went ahead 45 to 30. The Pioneers pushed the tempo as they grew the advantage to 54-34 with 14:53 left in the contest after Alex Jones pushed in a field goal.
Manchester issued its first major response of the game, using a 10-0 run to slice Transylvania's lead in half with 9:01 to go in the game. The game turned physical as the Pioneers, growing ever colder on long jumpers, began attacking the rim and earning healthy offensive opportunities.
McKinney was fouled on a three-pointer with 4:03 remaining and made the most of it, hitting all three freebies to build Transylvania's lead back to seven. The Pioneers' execution sharpened down the stretch as they grew the lead back to 11 inside a minute to go in the contest to put away the ballgame.
The Pioneers moved to 5-3 in the HCAC standings, behind a trio of teams all tied for first place with conference records of 7-1. Transylvania will visit one of those teams in their next game this following Wednesday, January 18 as it visits the Mt. St. Joseph Lions in Cincinnati, Ohio. Tip-off for that game is set for 7:30 p.m.
For more on Transylvania men's basketball, follow @TransySports on Twitter