Lexington, Ky. – Led by another second half outpouring from senior guard Alex Jones, the Transylvania men's basketball team clinched a thrilling 68-67 victory against the Mount St. Joseph University Lions on Wednesday night at the Beck Center.
With the win, the Pioneers swept the regular season series against Mt. St. Joseph and broke a three-game losing streak in the process. After having dropped their last three games by a combined eight points, the Pioneers ended up on the right side of a close game.
The Pioneers closed the game on a 6-0 run to shock the Lions late in a game of runs, including the go-ahead bucket by Jones with 23 seconds left.
It was a sweet finish for Jones, who finished with a game-high 18 points, 16 of which came in the second half. The Louisville product shot 8-for-9 from the floor in the second half after being neutralized in the first 20 minutes of the contest. Jones's performance against Mt. St. Joseph was reminiscent of the Pios' first meeting this season in Cincinnati, when the senior shot 9-for-13 from the field for 22 points in the second half which translated into a five-point win for Transylvania.
In their second meeting, the margin was even thinner as the Pioneers depended on a series of clutch plays down the stretch to hold onto victory.
Junior forward Robert Dence provided the Pioneers with a tremendous lift off the bench, shooting 5-for-5 from the floor to finish with 10 points and seven rebounds. His defensive impact was also enormous, as the big man forced key stops in the interior against the Lions down the stretch. Freshman guard Spencer McKinney had an efficient evening with 5-for-6 shooting off the bench for 10 points, three rebounds, and two assists.
The first half was draped in offensive starvation as the game was tied at 15-all with just over six minutes remaining in the first half. The Lions took a slight 29-27 halftime lead after closing the half on a 7-2 run.
The Pioneers began the second half incensed, opening up on an 18-5 run as Jones scored eight early points. But the Lions responded quickly with a 19-8 run to tie the game at 58-58 with five and a half minutes to go in regulation.
Freshman guard Gabe Schmitt, who finished the game with 11 points, hit a 3-pointer with 3:56 remaining to give Transy a 62-61 lead. The Lions then answered with six straight points from Jake Cropper to take a sudden 67-62 advantage with 2:42 left in the game.
The Pioneers went right back to work, setting up Dence for two straight close-range buckets to pull within one at the 1:39 mark of the second half.
With 26 seconds remaining, sophomore guard Cooper Theobald came up with a fierce block on the perimeter to galvanize a fast break for the Pioneers, leading to a go-ahead layup from Jones with 23 seconds left that handed the Pioneers a 68-67 lead.
The Lions came down and forced up a missed runner in the lane with five seconds left. Jones secured the rebound and cradled it in his arms as the clock expired, certifying a majestic close for the Pioneers.
The Pioneers shot 62 percent from the field in the second half, and 49 percent from the floor for the game.
Transylvania improved to 14-8 overall, and 9-6 in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference play, maintaining a fourth-place tie with Rose-Hulman with three games left in the regular season.
The Pioneers return to the floor of Don Lane Court at the Beck Center on Saturday, February 11 as they honor three seniors in Jones, David Keyer, and Derek Jeffries on Senior Day with a matchup against Defiance College. Ceremonies and the ensuing tip-off are scheduled for approximately 3:00 p.m.
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