RICHMOND, Ind. – An explosive second half, along with a career night from freshman Tim Bickel helped the Transylvania University men's basketball team notch its third straight Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference victory Wednesday night. Bickel led all scorers with a career-high 19 points and freshman Robert Dence posted 12 points along with 10 rebounds in the win for his second career double-double.
With the score tied at 42 to start the second half, the Pioneers exploded in the second half to take a 54-42 lead. Junior Parker Stansberry denied a layup which lead to an easy bucket for sophomore Alex Jones to start the run. The defense forced another Earlham turnover, as freshman Dillon Pulliam knocked the ball away before Dence found senior Tommy Sirkin for the three-pointer to extend the Transylvania lead to five.
"Sirkin sparked our defense with relentless ball pressure and hit a three-pointer to start the rally," head coach Brian Lane said. "We played a lot harder in the second half and you can tell by the field goal percentages in the first half and the second half we really picked up our energy and intensity."
Much was the same on Earlham's following possession for the Quakers. Dence tallied the steal, before Sirkin found Stansberry for the long ball giving the Pioneers a 50-42 advantage with 17:06 left to play. Dence then pulled down one of his 10 rebounds and added the bucket putting Transylvania up 10.
The Pioneers' momentum continued as a bucket from Bickel gave Transylvania a commanding 68-54 lead with under eight minutes remaining. A steal and a bucket from Sirkin gave the Pioneers a 21-point lead, their largest of the game, with 3:56 on the clock.
In the first half, the Pioneers built an eight-point lead as time wound down but the Quakers erased the deficit. Earlham looked to take a 42-40 lead into the locker room, but a jumper from Sirkin with four seconds remaining evened the score and gave the Pioneers the momentum going into the locker room.
"Tim looked very comfortable inside taking his time and scoring with strong moves to the basket," said Lane. "Parker had a solid game and really passed the ball well when double-teamed."
For the game 11 Pioneers recorded points, Jones, Stansberry, Bickel and Dence all scored in double-digits. Stansberry logged 15 points and dished five assists in the win, as Jones tallied 12 points and three assists.
With the seven HCAC games remaining in the regular season, the Pioneers find themselves in the hunt to make the conference tournament.
Transylvania travels to Manchester University Saturday for another conference test. Saturday's tip is scheduled for 3 p.m.