HUNTINGTON, Ind. - Just three days after a 90-85 triple overtime win over Mount Vernon, the 16th-ranked Wildcats of Indiana Wesleyan University only needed two extra periods to get the job done Tuesday night against the Foresters of Huntington University. They shot 51.6% for the game to steal an 80-78 win at the Merillat Complex.
With plenty riding on this game, it was obvious from opening tip-off that both teams came ready to do battle to the bitter end. And battle both teams did. No lead was safe as both teams could attest, each having built up an eight-point cushion in regulation that couldn’t stand the test of time.
For the Foresters, their advantage came in the opening period when Caleb Kennedy muscled his way down low for six points to spearhead a 12-4 run that put HU on top 29-21 with just under six minutes remaining. But the Wildcats made sure it didn’t stick by piecing together an 11-2 run in the closing minutes to nose ahead 32-31 by the break.
HU came out stale to start the second period, committing four consecutive turnovers which served as the Wildcats’ foundation for building their eight-point lead at 45-37 by the 13:31 mark. True to the game’s billing, the scrappy Foresters clawed their way back behind their go-to man Kennedy who tossed in nine of HU’s next 19 points to force a 56-56 deadlock with two minutes to go in regulation. After both teams traded a pair of free throws, HU’s shot at the buzzer was blocked to force overtime.
The first overtime started in a frenzy as four of the first six possessions resulted in a turnover. When the dust finally settled, the score remained in a 66-66 tie after five extra minutes.
The Wildcats made sure the second overtime ended differently as Jordan Weidner knocked down a three ball as the shot clock expired to give the visitors the early go ahead. Sixty seconds later Shane Merryman calmly sank two freebies to force the seventh tie of the night at 69-69 and after holding IWU scoreless on the ensuing possession; untimely turnovers finally got the best of the Foresters.
Huntington coughed up the ball 20 times and none was bigger than their last as IWU made them pay with a dunk in transition to push ahead for good at the 2:33 mark. The Wildcats went on to hold HU at bay by going 7-for-8 from the charity stripe down the stretch to wrap-up the win.
Kennedy finished with a game-high 26 points. Merryman ripped down a game-high eight rebounds to go along with 16 points while Ryan Boester and TJ Short chipped in 13 and 11 points respectively. Weidner netted 25 points to pace the Wildcats. Derrick Troyer added 16, Parker Stouffer came off the bench to score 15 and Patrick Hopkins rounded out IWU’s double digit scoring with ten.
With this loss, HU moves to 14-11, 6-7 in conference. They drop into a three-way tie for sixth place with five regular season MCC contests to go. The Wildcats (16-9) improve to 8-5 in league play and are currently sitting in the No. 2 spot with Saint Francis.
The Foresters are back in action on Saturday when they host Mount Vernon Nazarene University at 3:00 p.m.