HUNTINGTON, Ind. – The Goshen College men's basketball team lost its second-straight game, falling to host Huntington University 83-75 Tuesday night. It is just the second losing streak of the season (previously lost four straight in late December and early January).
"This was another great small college basketball game that came down to the wire," said head coach Gary Chupp. "We gave ourselves several opportunities down the stretch and couldn't quite get over the hump."
The hump was created behind a pair of first-half runs by the Foresters. Posts Shane Merryman and Caleb Kennedy each scored four points and Ryan Boester capped an 11-2 spurt with a 3-pointer as Huntington erased a 13-11 deficit to go up 22-15 at the 12:21 mark.
The hosts then took advantage of five straight missed 3-pointers by the Leafs to go on a 7-0 run to take their first double-digit lead (30-20) with just 5:47 left in the first stanza.
"I was disappointed with our defensive intensity to start the game," Chupp added. "We finally started stringing some defensive stops together late in the first half, which led to big run that got us back in the game by halftime."
In just 1:31 of game time, the Maple Leafs cut nine points off the deficit using a 3-pointer by Matthew Martin and jumpers by Mike Betcher, Garner Small, and Kody Chandler. With 32 seconds left in the period, Casey Pratt hit a 3-ball giving Goshen a brief lead before Randall Lowe hit a field goal to send the teams into the locker rooms tied at 36-all.
The score was tied three times in the opening three minutes of the second half before Goshen opened a four-point cushion on a Betcher dunk and pair of Chandler free throws. Tied again just past the midway point of the final period, the teams began to trade big 3-pointers.
The hosts finally made another run, this time 6-0, as a TJ Short layup put them up 72-65 with less than five to play. The Leafs got back within four, but the #8 ranked free throw shooting team (74%) in the nation used one of their biggest strengths to hold on.
Goshen was out shot on Tuesday, but only by a 4% margin (49% to 53%). The real difference came on the glass (Huntington out rebounded the Leafs 32-23) and at the free throw line (Huntington 23-of-29 to Goshen 11-of-13).
"In the second half, both teams kept hitting big shot after big shot," Chupp added. "Betch(er) fouling out with about four minutes left was a significant blow because he was very good for us on the block. Garner and Kody both had big offensive nights for us."
Chandler led Goshen and all scorers with 23 points on 7-of-13 shooting, while Betcher and Small had 20 and 14 points, respectively. Huntington's big men, Shane Merryman and Caleb Kennedy combined for 39 points and 14 rebounds to lead them to a season split with the Leafs.
"Credit Huntington, I thought they were very good offensively tonight and Kennedy got it done on Senior Night," Chupp concluded.
Despite the loss, the Maple Leafs have unofficially qualified for the Mid-Central College Conference Tournament. The rest of the playoff picture is quite cloudy, though, with Goshen currently in a midst of six teams within two games of each other. Complete postseason scenarios - including the complicated tiebreakers - are being compiled by the conference office and will be made available later this week.
For now, Goshen's focus is squarely on their opponent for Saturday, #14 Indiana Wesleyan University. Tip for the regular-season finale is scheduled for 3 p.m. against the Wildcats.