Cincinnati, Ohio – The Transylvania men's basketball team took a bite out of the top of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference standings with a 92-87 victory against the Mount St. Joseph University Lions on Wednesday night at the Harrington Center.
The Pioneers relied on a consistent second half of execution to finish off the victory against the Lions as they handed Mt. St. Joseph its second conference loss of the season.
Transylvania improved to 11-5 overall, and 6-3 in HCAC play as its winning streak grew to nine games. The Pioneers now sit at fourth place in the conference standings, one game behind the Lions and two games behind HCAC co-leaders Hanover and Anderson.
After being held scoreless for over 16 minutes to begin the game, senior guard Alex Jones erupted for a season-high 29 points the rest of the night to lead the Pioneers in scoring. Jones shot 9-for-13 in the second half, including a key sequence in which he buried back-to-back 3-pointers to hand the Pioneers a 78-76 lead. Following Jones's second consecutive triple at the 3:22 mark of the second half, the Pioneers would hold the lead for the rest of the game.
The Pioneers shot 59 percent from the floor, including 65 percent in the second half. Transylvania's sharpshooting was aided by a perfect 5-for-5 field goal shooting night from junior forward Robert Dence off the bench, who registered a season-high 11 points.
Freshman guard Gabe Schmitt also enjoyed an efficient night with 18 points on 5-for-7 shooting from the field and a perfect 6-for-6 night from the free-throw line. Sophomore guard Cooper Theobald went 4-for-6 from the field on the way to a 16 point, seven rebound, and two assist night.
Sophomore forward Kyle Gullett was the other Pioneer to reach double-digit scoring with 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting from the field.
Wednesday's affair offered an equally combative game between the Lions and Pioneers, who had a tug-of-war of sorts for nearly the entire prescribed 40-minute session. The Lions jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead within the first two minutes of the contest, but the Pioneers went on an 8-3 run to quickly thin the deficit.
While Jones was slow in getting going, the freshman Schmitt provided a major lift with a 12-point first half as he shot 5-for-6 from the field, burying two 3-balls along the way.
As physicality and quality of play accelerated in the second half, Jones and Gullett led the offensive scoring charge, as Jones went off for 22 points and Gullett had a steady 11.
Two free throws from Mt. St. Joseph's Holden Hertzel procured a one-point lead for the Lions with over 15 minutes left in the game, and the Lions led by a slim margin until the 8:56 mark of the second half.
The Lions and Pioneers traded blows until Jones's barrage of threes gave Transylvania the 78-76 advantage. The Pioneers continued generating clutch defensive stops while making the free throws they needed at the other end to create breathing room towards the end of the night.
With sharp and at times, heart-bending execution, the Pioneers have completed the first half of HCAC double-round robin play 6-3 in conference.
On Saturday, Transylvania will visit the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Fightin' Engineers in Terre Haute, Indiana to try and secure its first double-digit win streak in five years.
The Engineers, incidentally, are the last team to hand Transylvania a loss prior to their nine-game winning streak, but currently sit one game back of the Pioneers at 5-4 in conference play.
The Pioneers will aim for their shot at redemption against the Engineers at 1:00 p.m. at Hulbert Arena in Terre Haute.
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