Men's Basketball

Transy free throws, bench help it take down league co-leader Hanover

One first-place showdown complete, one to go.

Transylvania rallied from a nine-point deficit Wednesday night to upend Hanover 72-67 in the Beck Center.

Both teams came into the game with 5-1 records, tied with Rose-Hulman for a share of the Heartland Conference men's basketball lead.

Rose-Hulman, a 71-70 winner over Anderson, will visit Transy on Saturday.

"It's definitely a huge week," said Transy's Barrett Meyer, who converted both halves of a pair of one-and-ones during the last 24 seconds. "Our fate's in our own hands right now. If we win these two games, we'll have the outright lead."

Ethan Spurlin, Brandon Rash and Meyer were the only Pioneers to score in the second half.

Spurlin, a 6-foot-4 junior, had 16 of his 26 points after intermission and led Transy with eight rebounds.

Rash, a 6-3 junior, scored five of his 10 points in each half. He also had five rebounds and three assists.

Meyer, a 6-2 junior, tallied 12 of his 15 in the second half. He led the Pioneers with four assists.

Transy (12-2) got plenty of help off the bench, though.

"I've been asking for the bench to give us a little bit more in practice so that we can put them in the game and feel comfortable," Coach Brian Lane said. "Tonight, they came in and really saved us."

Hanover (9-4), which had won six of its previous seven games, scorched the nets and led 38-29 late in the first half.

The Panthers shot 15-for-20 (75 percent) from the field in the half, 6-for-7 (85.7 percent) from three-point range.

But Transy closed with a 10-2 surge to pull to within 40-39 at the break.

Matthew Clevenger had half of those points on 2-for-2 shooting, including a three-pointer. Fellow sub Trey Beuttel also hit a trey, and Rash sank two free throws.

Transy finished the game 12-for-12 at the foul line.

Nick Fudge also gave a spark off the bench with six first-half points and in-your-face defense.

"We were in a stretch there at the beginning of the first half where you could just see it in the eyes of our starters, like, 'I don't think we can stop them,'" Lane said. "So we put some guys in that literally haven't played many minutes combined. But they lifted the intensity and were able to get some buckets for us.

"Then I told (the starters), 'You've got about two minutes to figure out if you're going to play defense in the second half, or we'll come right back with the guys that saved us.'"

The 10-2 finish to the half was only the beginning of a 35-11 flurry that lifted Transy to a 64-49 lead with 8:07 left.

"Everybody knew after that (first-half) performance that we could play a lot better," Spurlin said. "We knew we had to step it up and, if we did play defense as intense as we could, then we knew we could break open the game and get a victory."

Hanover saw its second-half accuracy drop to 10-for-27 (37 percent), 2-for-9 (22.2) from long range.

Trailing by 15, Hanover lost season scoring leader Mike Case, a 6-5, 220-pounder, when he landed awkwardly on his back while battling for a rebound.

The Panthers turned up the defensive pressure, though, and nearly caught up.

Tim Bass, a 5-5, 135-pound freshman, drained a three-pointer with 36 seconds left to cut Transy's lead to 68-65.

Meyer did the rest of Transy's scoring at the free-throw line.

"I try not to think about" the pressure, Meyer said. "Just one dribble and let it go, just like any other free throw, just right off the fingertips."

Bass led Hanover with 17 points, including four three-pointers. Kyle James and Drake Hendricks scored 11 each, one more than Ryan Nowicki.