Men's Basketball

Newly ranked Pioneers top Franklin 76-55

Motivation was no problem Wednesday for Transylvania.

The Pioneers suffered their first loss, to Gustavus Adolphus in a Las Vegas holiday tournament last week.

Having tied a school record by winning its first 10 games, though, Transy earned its first national ranking this week — No. 25 in NCAA Division III.

Back in Heartland Conference play in the Beck Center, Transy pulled away midway through the second half en route to a 76-55 victory over Franklin.

"We were very motivated," said Ethan Spurlin, who scored 15 of his game-high 24 points in the second half. "I felt like the team took the loss pretty hard. Even though we won 10 in a row, we thought we should have won the game. We wanted to come out here and redeem ourselves, come out here and just get that thing rolling again."

Transy, 5-0 in the HCAC, got 17 points and seven rebounds from Brandon Rash. Tate Cox added 14 points and Barrett Meyer had nine.

Franklin (6-6, 3-2) was led by Gunner Erwin with 13 points and four rebounds. Will Conoley scored 12.

The Pioneers led 30-27 at halftime, and the margin was still three (45-42) with 12 minutes left.

Cox made one free throw with 12:10 left to launch a 7-0 run.

Spurlin, a 6-foot-4 junior, got the other six — two at the foul line, a put-back and two more free throws — for a 52-42 lead.

"We got some good isolations," Coach Brian Lane said. "They were really focusing in on Rash on the drive, which was good. Because one good thing about this team is when you've got Rash and Spurlin driving it, it's a tough combination."

Franklin never got within eight after that, the last time at 56-48.

Before the Grizzlies scored again, Transy got a three-point play from Rash, back-to-back two-point conversions by Spurlin, an Ashley Hatfield three-pointer and a three-point play by Spurlin. That made it 69-48.

Game, set, match.

"I'd been struggling the whole game, really," said Spurlin, who shot 8-for-15, mostly from close range, 8-for-9 at the free-throw line and grabbed six rebounds. "It just didn't matter. I just tried to keep attacking and try to do what I do to help my team. Everything clicked and we broke up a close ball game."

Transy had the edge in rebounds (29-20), turnovers (8-15), free throws (24-for-30 to 11-for-18) and field-goal accuracy (52.2 percent to 46.3).

"We knew that our defense had to be much better in the second half," Lane said. "We did it from the three, holding them to 2-for-11. But the concern, and the reason that I thought it was closer for a good part of it, was they were 13-for-22 from inside three. ... The other thing I like was our changing defenses and everything, I thought, contributed to the turnovers. Any time you hold a team to seven assists and double that in turnovers, that gives you a great chance to win."

Lane offered mixed praise for another aspect of his team's play.

"We've been harping all week, since we got back from Las Vegas, about offensive rebounding. And it really, really worked because at halftime we had zero," he said with a smile. "So we reminded them that that was an emphasis for the week."

The Pioneers grabbed seven offensive boards in the second half.

Lane noted that Division III has the most NCAA basketball teams with more than 440. Being No. 25 means something, he said, but he'd like to do even better.

So he told his players "every time you go out the door now as a ranked opponent, the other team knows that and they're going to elevate their game. And we've got to be able to do it as well."

So far, so good.