WINONA LAKE, Ind. - The #24 HU men’s basketball team let an eight-point lead slip away in the final three minutes of play to suffer an 81-76 loss to the Lancers of Grace College Saturday afternoon at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center.
Grace (12-8, 3-5), undoubtedly the hottest team in the conference, has knocked off their last three ranked opponents. Prior to upsetting HU, Grace handed No. 20 Marian a one-point loss on Tuesday after claiming a 62-56 win over No. 14 Saint Francis last weekend.
The loss drops Huntington (16-4) to second in the standings with a 6-2 league record.
HU’s demise in the final minutes came by way of Logan Irwin who singled-handedly picked apart the Forester defense for eight consecutive points in less than 90 seconds to pull his team even with their visitors at 74-74 with 1:24 remaining.
A stunned Huntington squad couldn’t stop the bleeding as Grace reeled off another seven points to HU’s two to seal the win.
Irwin finished with a game-high 23 points to pace four Lancers in double digits. Greg Miller poured in 20 points while Niko Read and Brandon Vanderhegghen added 11 and ten points respectively.
Derek Hinen led a balanced Forester attack with 18 points. Shane Merryman topped out at 15 points and a game-high nine rebounds. TJ Short and Tyler Ault each chipped in 11 points. Alec Peterson added ten points and three blocks while Ryan Boester came off the bench to toss in another ten.
The first half was a frenzy of activity. After the lead exchanged three times within the first two minutes of play, the Foresters found themselves down 10-9 but Ault quickly changed all of that by draining a trio of triples to give his team a 21-12 lead by the 14:19 mark.
The Lancers methodically went to work, returning the favor with a 13-4 run over a five-minute span to force a 25-25 deadlock, the first of eight ties in the period. Thirteen lead changes later, Huntington took a slim 41-39 lead into break.
Grace scored on the opening possession of the final twenty minutes but the Foresters remained calm behind four points from Peterson to build the lead back to five at 48-43 by the 17:09 mark. With the exception of one tie at the midway point of the period, Huntington clung to a lead until Irwin began to wreak havoc with three minutes remaining.
Coach Platt’s squad shot 46.3 percent (25-for-4) from the field to Grace’s 56.9 percent (33-for-58). The Lancers scored 17 points off ten Forester miscues and held a 30-27 rebounding advantage over their visitors.
Huntington returns to the friendly confines of Platt Arena on Tuesday to host No. 14 Saint Francis at 7:00 p.m.