Terre Haute, Ind. – A late extended rally by the Transylvania men's basketball team fell short as the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Fightin' Engineers held on for a 70-69 victory against the Pioneers Saturday afternoon at Hulbert Arena.
Trailing by 10 points with two minutes to go, the Pioneers stretched out the final two minutes with a marathon of gritty plays, clutch three-pointers, and timely rebounds but came up one possession short of a potential victory.
The Pioneers fell to 13-6 overall and 8-4 in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference play while the Engineers maintained a share of first place in the conference standings by moving to 12-7 overall and 10-2 in the HCAC.
Saturday's result also occurred on a day junior Cooper Theobald reached a career milestone. Theobald's second bucket of the game sent him into the pantheon of career 1,000 point scorers for Transylvania men's basketball. The junior notched his 1,001st point on a runner in the lane midway through the first half to become the 48th Transylvania men's basketball player to complete the achievement. Theobald finished his day shooting 6-for-6 from the field, including two desperation three-pointers near the end of each half.
Saturday's game was influenced by a low-scoring start in which neither team scored until the 15:40 mark of the first half. Rose-Hulman's Charlie Aimone scored on an inside shot for the first bucket of the game. Transylvania did not score its first field goal until freshman guard Devin Twenty converted on a drive with 12:28 left in the first half to cut Rose-Hulman's lead to 6-3.
Both teams began simmering in the final portion of the second half and the Pioneers took a 21-16 lead on a layup by junior forward Bo Schuh. The Engineers responded with a 10-0 run but Theobald scored the final five points of the half, including a long buzzer-beater from 30 feet out to tie the game at 26-26 heading into halftime.
Rose-Hulman broke the tie one minute into the second half as the Engineers' Charlie Aimone hit a jump shot and went on to extend its lead to as much as 11 points multiple times in the half. The Pioneers were plagued by poor three-point shooting for much of the half while Rose-Hulman shot 5-for-8 from outside in the final period.
Still trailing by 10 with 2:00 left in regulation, sophomore guard Gabe Schmitt hit on a jumper and the Pioneers forced a turnover, setting up Schmitt for a designed three-point shot to cut Rose-Hulman's lead to 64-59 with 1:02 remaining in the game.
Down by seven with 40 seconds left, freshman guard Devin Twenty sank a three-pointer to cut Rose-Hulman's lead to 66-62. The Pioneers responded with a backcourt steal but Schmitt was called for an offensive foul that returned possession to Rose-Hulman.
The Pioneers fouled to extend the game, and Rose-Hulman hit three of its next four free throws. The Pioneers clawed tightly as Twenty and McKinney scored on successive putbacks to trim the Engineers' lead to 68-66 with seven seconds remaining.
After Aimone hit two critical foul shots with five seconds left in the game to put Rose-Hulman ahead by four, Theobald rushed down and hit another approximately 30-foot jumper to cut the Engineers' lead to 70-69 with 1.7 seconds to go. But the Engineers' John Czarnecki intentionally missed the second free throw, and Schuh rebounded and hoisted an 80-foot prayer at the buzzer that fell short.
Schuh finished the game with 13 points off the bench to go with six rebounds and one steal, while Twenty finished with 11 points and four assists. Schmitt was the other double-digit scorer for Transylvania with 11 points.
The Pioneers finished the day 12-for-19 from the free throw line while Rose-Hulman buried 21 of their 31 free throw attempts in the win.
Transylvania returns home on Wednesday, January 31 to play host to the Earlham College Quakers in another HCAC contest. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. from the Clive M. Beck Center in Lexington.
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