The #24 Forester men’s basketball team staved off a late Pilot surge to upset #15 Bethel College 86-84 Tuesday night at Wiekamp Athletics Center. With this win, HU improves to 16-3 overall and remains atop the league standings with a 6-1 record.
Huntington added to their hosts’ meltdown by handing the Pilots (14-5, 3-4) their third consecutive loss. Bethel, ranked fourth in last week’s national poll, slipped to 15th and dropped to sixth in the league standings.
After taking a 51-39 lead into intermission, the Foresters never gave up the lead in the final twenty minutes but had to battle to the bitter end to pull off the upset. Derek Hinen made sure his team stayed on top by scoring 18 of his game-high 22 points in the second stanza to account for over half his team’s offensive output.
The 6-3 freshman guard wasted little time taking charge, knocking down his first of six second half field goals to give his team a 14-point advantage of 53-39 on the opening possession of the final frame. While it proved to be the game’s largest lead, Hinen and crew were able to maintain their double digit lead for most of the next 12 minutes.
HU was able to keep one of the nation’s top offenses at arm’s length through the first 35 minutes but it was only a matter of time until the Pilots, averaging 89.7 points per outing to rank 8th in NAIA Division II in scoring, finally shredded the lead to a single possession.
Down 80-70 with just under five minutes remaining, BC rattled off nine points to close to within one by the 2:09 mark. The momentum had clearly shifted, but it was short-lived as TJ Short and Hinen quieted the energized Bethel hopefuls by scoring four of the game’s next five points. Short knocked down a pair of freebies and Hinen scored in the paint to push the lead to four at 84-80 with 18 ticks remaining.
The Pilots would score on the next possession but were forced to send the Foresters to the line in the final seconds where they went 2-for-4 to hold on for the win.
Shane Merryman carried Huntington in the first half by scoring 18 points and dishing out three assists. Tyler Ault also came up big in the first twenty minutes by draining all three of his shots from downtown. The Foresters shot 58.9 percent from the field in the opening period which included going 7-for-13 behind the arc to build their 12-point cushion.
Merryman finished with 21 points to go along with nine rebounds. Alec Peterson also corralled nine boards to join Merryman as the game’s top rebounder. Drew Benedict added 11 points to round out Huntington’s double digit scoring.
It was a cleanly played game with Bethel committing six turnovers to HU’s 11. BC also won the battle of the boards 43-37 but the difference came down to shooting where HU shot 53.7 percent for the game to Bethel’s 39.7 percent.
Bethel landed four Pilots in double digits with Ryan Benner leading the way with 21 points. Zach Miller added 16 while Matt Schauss and Patrick Oetting tossed in 14 and 10 points respectively.
The Foresters hit the road again on Saturday to take on Grace at 3:00 p.m.
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