WINONA LAKE, Ind. - The HU men’s basketball team knocked off 4th-ranked NAIA Division I Robert Morris University (Ill.) 89-85 on opening night of the Grace College Classic before Missouri Baptist University outlasted the Foresters in overtime 78-73 on Saturday at the Orthopaedic Capital Center.
Shane Merryman exploded for a career-high 30 points on 12-for-13 shooting to pace his team to an impressive win over the No. 4 Eagles on Friday.
The Foresters shot a blistering 61.4 percent (27-for-44) for the game while holding Robert Morris to 46.7 percent on 35-for-75 shooting. HU also enjoyed a lopsided 37-24 edge in rebounding but it was HU’s carelessness with the ball that kept them from running away with the game as they committed 26 turnovers to the Robert Morris’ ten.
Behind Merryman’s 14 points, HU jumped out to an early 20-8 lead by the 11-minute mark. The Eagles methodically chipped away at the lead, taking advantage of four HU turnovers, to eventually steal the lead at 32-30 with just over four minutes remaining in the half and ride out the half with a slight 40-38 advantage.
After playing to two ties in the first three minutes of the second half, TJ Short’s fast break bucket with 16:34 remaining gave his team a lead that would stick and sparked a 14-2 run to grow the lead to 64-52 at the 11:06 mark.
HU maintained their double digit lead over the next seven minutes and looked to be cruising to the win but turnovers once again haunted the Foresters as the Eagles made one final surge to close within one at 84-83 with just over two minutes to go.
Short came through with two free tosses to widen the gap back to three and then Stephen Jones closed out the contest by going 3-for-4 from the charity stripe to seal the win.
HU’s starting front court accounted for 65 of the team’s 85 points. Short finished with 20 points and Alec Peterson added 15 to go along with Merryman’s 30. Merryman also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds for his second double double of the year.
Larry Dumas poured in a game-high 34 points for RMU while teammates Sean Montgomery and Kashaune McKinney tossed in 14 and 11 respectively.
It was a disappointing finish for HU on Saturday as they trailed for less than 60 seconds in regulation but succumbed to the Spartans in the extra period.
After leading by as many ten points in the first half, HU carried a seven-point advantage of 38-31 into the locker room. Tyler Ault scored eight of his 12 points, which included back-to-back treys, in the first three minutes of the contest to give his team an early 10-2 lead.
The Foresters continued their hot hand from Friday night, sizzling the nets for 62.5 percent (15-for-24) through the first twenty minutes but turnovers again proved to be the thorn in their side as they committed 12 miscues during this time to let Missouri Baptist hang around at halftime.
The final 20 minutes of regulation proved to be a seesaw of runs as the Spartans opened the half with a 7-1 run to trim the lead to one at 39-38 but HU countered as four different Foresters knocked down shots to grow the lead back to seven at 45-38.
Huntington went on to build a nine-point lead at 59-50 by the 6:35 mark but Missouri Baptist closed out the period with a 17-8 run to deadlock the score at 67-67 in regulation.
The Spartans opened up scoring in overtime but Ryan Boester made sure HU didn’t go down without a fight. He accounted for four of HU’s five points through the midway point of OT to give HU a slim 73-71 but it was all Missouri Baptist after that as they held the Foresters scoreless the rest of the way to send the Foresters packing.
The Foresters shot 50.9 percent (28-for-55) for the game and held a 34-29 rebounds advantage but the Spartans won the turnover battle, committing 14 to HU’s 23.
TJ Short and Shane Merryman each scored 13 points to pace HU. In addition to Ault's 12 points, Alec Peterson added 11 and grabbed a team-high five rebounds and Boester finished with ten. Stephen Jones dished out a season-high eight assists and swiped a game-high three steals.
Kalvin Lewis paced five Spartans in double figures with 22 points. Adrian Kuyinu tossed in 18 points, LeAndre Johnson and Matt Holmes chipped in 11 apiece and Theodore King added ten.
The Foresters (3-3) open up league play on Tuesday when they travel to the University of Saint Francis for a 7:00 p.m. tip-off.