HUNTINGTON, Ind. - It was an NAIA Top 25 showdown Monday night at Platt Arena with lower-seeded Ashford University (Iowa) coming up with the upset, a 64-57 road win over the No. 13 Forester men’s basketball team.
As was expected, points were at a premium as both teams are among the nation’s best in points allowed per game. The 23rd-ranked Saints (12-5) entered the contest ranked 3rd in NAIA Division II for scoring defense per game with 61.0 while HU (13-2) gives up one more point per outing, 62.1, to claim the 6th spot.
On this particular night, AU held the upper-hand as they limited their hosts to just 21 field goals on 38.9 percent (21-for-54) shooting while knocking down 44.6 percent (25-for-56) of their attempts.
After holding Huntington to 32 points in the first half, they clamped down even tighter in the final twenty minutes, limiting HU to their lowest output of the season with 25 points in a half.
It was a two-point spread at halftime with Ashford holding the slight 34-32 advantage. The Saints capitalized on two HU turnovers to start the contest to take a 5-0 lead and it seemed to set the tone. While Huntington was quick to recover from their early deficit by forcing two ties within the first four minutes, the Foresters ended up playing catch up most of the night.
Seven minutes later Coach Platt’s squad pieced together an 11-0 run with four different Foresters knocking down shots to turn their five-point deficit into a six point lead of 29-23 by the 6:02 mark but they couldn’t sustain it.
The Saints rattled off the next seven points to regain the lead at 30-29 as they rode out the half, taking a permanent lead into break. They spent the first six and a half minutes of the second period building their lead to ten at 51-41 but then seemed to hit a wall.
The Foresters let the golden opportunity slip away as they held their visitors scoreless over the next three minutes. Unfortunately, HU went just as cold as Alec Peterson’s two free throws were the only points logged during the scoring drought.
HU slowly chipped away at the lead to muster one final push behind their lone statesman Shane Merryman. The 6-5 forward scored ten of his team’s next 12 points to trim the lead to two at 57-55 with 90 ticks remaining.
It brought the Huntington hopefuls to their feet but Tevin Harris quickly silenced the crowd by draining a trey on the very next possession to give his team a little breathing room.
Merryman would score one more time but Harris’ long ball proved to be the final dagger as Huntington had no choice but to send Ashford to the line where they went 4-for-4 in the final 30 seconds to solidify the win.
Merryman was the lone Forester to finish in double digits. He poured in a game-high 28 points to go along with 11 rebounds for the double double. Derek Hinen added nine points and dished out six assists. Peterson ripped down a career-best 13 rebounds and swatted three shots.
Harris came off the bench to lead the Saints with 18 points. DeAndre Lowery tossed in 15, Thaddeus Perry added 11 and Anthony Woods chipped in ten.
The Foresters jump back into league play Saturday when they travel to Taylor University for a 3:00 p.m. tip-off.