North Manchester, Ind. – The Transylvania men's basketball team used a 13-0 run in the key stretch of the second half to seize a 77-62 win over the Manchester University Spartans on Saturday afternoon at the Physical Education and Recreation Center (PERC).
Leading a tightly-contested game by a sliver at 60-59 with just over seven minutes left in the contest, the Pioneers used back-to-back triples from Michael Jefferson and Spencer McKinney as the heart of a game-changing run to suddenly forge a double-digit lead on the way to claiming their 11th win of the conference season.
The Pioneers moved to 11-5 in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference play and 15-8 on the season. Manchester dropped to 6-10 in the HCAC and 8-15 overall.
Transylvania drew back into a tie for first place in the HCAC standings with Saturday's victory and a loss by Franklin College to Anderson later in the afternoon. With Transylvania and Franklin each tied for first place in the HCAC standings at 11-5, the Pioneers now control their own destiny for the No. 1 seed in the upcoming HCAC Tournament by virtue of a tiebreaker with two more potential wins to close out the season.
Lucas Gentry led the Pioneers with 17 points and 12 rebounds on 7 for 12 shooting from the field to grab his third double-double of the season, all coming within his last six appearances. The junior was joined by three others starters who scored in double figures Saturday in a balanced attack.
Saturday's second meeting of the season between the Pioneers and Spartans featured tight margins nearly all the way until Transylvania's game-sealing run as Manchester's largest first-half lead was five points while the Pioneers viewed their largest lead of the first half at four points with 4:27 remaining.
The Pioneers shot 50 percent from the field in the first half, connecting on 5 of 11 three-pointers while Manchester shot 47 percent from the field but hit on 8 of 22 triples.
The game see-sawed back and forth as the first half witnessed nine lead changes and seven ties. The final lead change came on a buzzer-beating threeball by Manchester's Jalen Owens to hand the Spartans a 42-39 halftime advantage.
Trailing 46-41 five minutes into the second half, Transylvania took the lead again on a 7-0 run behind a bucket by Brandon Cromwell, a jumper from Gabe Schmitt, and a 3-pointer from Zach Larimore for a 48-46 advantage. Gentry later transferred momentum to the Pioneers with back-to-back three-pointers for a 56-52 Transy upper hand with 9:29 to go. Gentry shot 3 for 4 from downtown on Saturday.
Transylvania and Manchester continued to trade baskets over the next two minutes before the Spartans took the lead on an Abdul Ogunnaike layup at the 7:25 mark to surge ahead, 59-58. But the layup would prove to be Manchester's final lead of the afternoon.
Schmitt countered with consecutive field goals for four of his 16 points on the day to ignite the 13-0 run. Jefferson and McKinney pumped home consecutive 3-pointers with 3:25 remaining in regulation for a 68-59 Transylvania advantage. Gentry put the game out of reach, completing the run with an inside score to push the Pioneers ahead at 71-59.
Manchester quelled the run momentarily with a field goal but Jefferson hit three free throws around the one-minute mark to spot the Pioneers a 13-point lead. After Manchester quickly turned the ball over on the ensuing possession, Schmitt buried two more charity shots to put the game on ice with a 76-61 advantage.
When the dust had settled, the Pioneers closed the final 7:07 of the afternoon on a 19-3 run, slamming the door in voracious fashion.
Jefferson completed the game with 13 points, five rebounds, a team-high five assists, and three of Transylvania's seven steals. Brandon Cromwell posted 11 points, three rebounds, three assists, and two steals in 31 minutes of play. McKinney matched Jefferson with five assists and yielded four rebounds, seven points, and one steal.
Transylvania offered one of its most efficient offensive performances of the season, shooting 10 for 18 from behind the arc and 48 percent from the floor overall. The Pioneers displayed their defensive fangs over the final 20 minutes, holding Manchester to just 28 percent shooting from the floor in the second half and a paltry 2 for 15 mark from outside.
The Pioneers will continue hot pursuit of their first HCAC regular-season title in eight seasons on Wednesday, February 19 as they host Hanover College in a pivotal matchup. Transylvania will aim to return the favor to Hanover, who defeated the Pioneers 90-80 in their first meeting of the season on January 15 in Hanover, Indiana. The Pioneers currently sit one game ahead of the Panthers in the HCAC standings.
Wednesday's matchup will tip off in Lexington at the Clive M. Beck Center at 7:30 p.m.
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