MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - After a subpar first half, the Foresters nearly doubled their productivity in every offensive category in the final twenty minutes to steal a 64-58 road win from the Cougars of Mount Vernon Nazarene University.
The Foresters went from shooting 32.1 percent in the first half to sizzling the nets for 58.3 percent in the second half. They shot only three free throws through the first stanza but got to the line 17 times in the second half of the contest. HU also took much better care of the ball in the final twenty minutes, committing only three turnovers after coughing up the ball seven times in the opening period.
The win snaps a six-game skid as HU improves to 13-13 overall, 4-10 in Crossroads play. With four games until the league tournament, the Foresters are sitting in eighth place, two games ahead of Mount Vernon (10-16, 2-12).
TJ Short was HU’s saving grace in the opening half. He finished with 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting while his teammates combined to go 5-for-21. It was a struggle to put points on the board as Huntington only managed nine field goals on their way to a 24-point half.
Fortunately, the Cougars had similar statistics through the first twenty minutes. They matched HU’s field goal total with nine on 40.9 percent shooting and logged eight miscues. Not surprisingly, the two teams swapped the lead ten times throughout the half with neither squad owning more than a four-point advantage as HU edged in front 24-22 by halftime.
Mount Vernon wasted no time making up their two-point deficit with a quick jumper in the paint on the opening possession of the second period to force the game’s fourth tie of the day at 24-24.
Behind the back court play of Short and Shane Merryman, HU countered with a 19-8 run over a 9-minute stretch to build a 43-32 cushion by the midway point of the half. Merryman posted nine points during the run which included a conventional 3-point play while Short added six points including a fast break dunk.
It looked like the Foresters were on a roll but thanks to a trio of threes, Mount Vernon needed less than three minutes to deadlock the score for the sixth time at 45-45 by the 7:28 mark.
Although the tide had turned, Alec Peterson and Ryan Boester decided to right the ship. They carried the team down the stretch, accounting for 14 of HU’s next 16 points, each scoring seven, to give the visitors a six-point advantage of 61-55 with 20 seconds remaining. Merryman finished things off by draining three free throws in the waning seconds to secure the win.
Merryman led a balanced Forester attack with 18 points. Short added 17, Peterson tossed in 11 to go along with a team-high five rebounds and Boester tossed in ten.
Jason Dawson led all scorers with 29 points. Caleb Williams was the Cougars only other double digit scorer with ten.
HU returns to the friendly confines of Platt Arena on Tuesday to face No. 13 Bethel College at 7:00 p.m.