HUNTINGTON, Ind. –The
#16 HU men’s basketball team reclaimed sole possession of second place in the league
standings with an 87-81 decision over #12 Bethel College Tuesday night at Platt
With this win, the Foresters snapped the Pilots’ seven-game win streak and completed
the season sweep over their nemesis. The last time these two teams met back on
January 14, HU escaped Goodwin Gymnasium with an 86-84 road win.
The Foresters are now 22-5 overall, 11-4 in Crossroads action while the Pilots (21-6)
drop to No. 3 in the conference standings with an 10-5 record.
Freshman Derek Hinen was unstoppable. The Columbia City native poured in a
career-best 33 points on 11-for-13 shooting which included six treys. He also
knocked down all six of his freebies in the final 20 seconds, dished out a
game-high five assists and swiped two steals.
After a quiet first half of only four points, Shane Merryman exploded for 15 in
the final twenty minutes to finish with 19. TJ Short, who went over the
1,000-career point mark in the second half, tossed in 16 points and ripped down
a team-best eight rebounds.
It was a barn-burner from start to finish as neither team enjoyed more than an
eight point spread in a contest that featured eight ties and 26 lead changes.
The Foresters blistered the nets in the opening twenty minutes at a clip of
60.9 percent (14-for-23) which included six long balls but turnovers plagued
the hosts the entire period. Huntington committed 16 first half miscues which
the Pilots converted for 20 points on their way to enjoying a three-point
Hinen got his team off to a solid start by scoring ten of HU’s first 12 points
for a 12-11 lead at the 12:56 mark. One possession separated the two teams for
all but a 20-second span over the next six minutes before both teams mustered
runs that essentially cancelled each other out.
The Pilot’s Ryan Booker scored on back-to-back steals to cap an 8-0 run that
gave Bethel a 32-25 lead with 3:30 remaining but the Foresters were quick to
counter. Ryan Boester broke HU’s scoring drought by burying a triple on the next
possession and then TJ Short tacked on two more from downtown to reclaim the
lead at 34-32 with just over 90 seconds to go.
It looked like the half would end in a deadlock but Booker once again forced
the Foresters to cough up the ball, this time cashing in on an old-fashioned
three point play with no time remaining to send his team into the locker room with
a 37-34 advantage.
The contest seemed destined for another down-to-the-wire affair as the lead
see-sawed back-and-forth until the 7:40 mark. That’s when HU started its 11-2
run that essentially decided the game.
Hinen book-ended the spurt. He started things off by skirting his way down the
lane with the shot clock winding down to give his team a 63-62 lead and then topped
off the run with a 3-pointer to extend the advantage to 72-64 with just under
five minutes remaining. Shane Merryman did everything in between by scoring on
a traditional three-point play and draining a three.
The Foresters went on to keep a healthy distance from their visitors until Zach
Miller cut the lead to four at 76-72 with 1:20 remaining on back-to-back threes.
Hinen once again came up with a shot-clock beating bucket to extend the lead
back to six with 45 ticks remaining.
It proved to be the final dagger as the Pilots were forced to foul, sending the
Foresters to the line where they went 9-for-10 to ice the game.
Ryan Benner topped Bethel with 31 points. Booker came off the bench to score 15
while Miller tossed in 11.
HU finished 31-for-50 from the field for 62.0 percent which included going
13-for-22 from long range. They also converted 12 of their 13 free throw
attempts, all of which came in the final twenty minutes, for 92.3 percent and committed
only six turnovers in the second half.
“This was a big win for our team tonight,” said Coach Ty Platt. “We certainly
didn’t play perfect, having had way too many turnovers (22), but we shot the
ball very well and we played with some toughness about us.”
Enjoying tonight’s win is short-lived as Coach Platt’s focus is already on his
next opponent, “Things certainly don’t get easier for us as Grace is playing
very well and will play very hard on Saturday. We need to refocus and be ready
to do battle again Saturday.”