CLEVELAND, Ga. – The Spring Hill College men's basketball team opened the 2011 conference scheduled with an 87-84 overtime road loss at Truett-McConnell College on Friday night.
In a physical first half of play, Spring Hill and Truett-McConnell both worked to control the inside game as the square-footage under both baskets became the most valuable real estate in the gymnasium.
With two minutes until the intermission, the Badgers took a 35-29 lead and expanded the advantage to 38-29 off a fingertip-roll basket by sophomore forward Alex Looney from Mobile's Murphy High School and a free throw by senior guard Stephen Burches from Hammond, La.
Spring Hill held a 40-31 bulge at the halftime break with the only significant difference in statistics being three Badger 3-point buckets to just one by the Bears.
A basket by freshman center Jake Thelen of Edgewood, Ky., off an assist by freshman Frederick Gatson from Riverdale, Ga., gave Spring Hill a double-digit lead at 42-31 early in the second half.
The Bears responded with a 12-4 run that sliced the Badger lead down to just 46-43 with 16:26 to play in the contest. SHC Head Coach Robert Thompson called a quick time out to put in a smaller lineup that the Badgers used to rebuild a 50-43 advantage.
Truett-McConnell was not to be deterred, however, and rallied to cut their deficit to 50-49 with 11 minutes remaining before Gatson answered with a put back basket on the other end.
A successful conversion of 3-point play and a layup by Bernard Niugent gave the Bears their first lead of the second half at 5:54, but the Badgers responded with back-to-back treys for a 63-62 lead in Spring Hill's favor with just 3:45 remaining.
With 50 seconds to go, Burches dropped in two free throws to tie the game at 69 and then converted a steal on the other end of the court into a fast break bucket for a 71-69 Badger lead.
Joiner would put in a layup with 30 seconds left to tie the game at 71 and junior guard Brett Williams of Oviedo, Fla., had his shot blocked by Daniel Chatchou to send the game into overtime.
In overtime, the Bears held a 77-75 lead when Williams had a layup bucket with foul waved off in a controversial call as TMC converted on the other end to make it a 79-75 Bear advantage.
Truett-McConnell then made just enough free throws to maintain an 85-80 bulge with 12 seconds left when Roderick Bombard fouled Williams in the act of shooting a 3-pointer and then compounded the error by adding a technical foul for arguing with the referees. Williams knocked down four of the five free throws to make it 85-84 and the Badgers with ball possession.
A shot with 7.6 seconds left by senior guard Tyler Schwab of Ft. Walton Beach, Fla., was off the mark and rebounded by the Bears who turned the board into two free throws. Williams' last second heave was just off the rim as the Badgers fell 87-84.
Williams led Spring Hill with 25 points while Gatson added 15 and Looney put in 13 points. Thelen contributed 11 point to the Badger effort.
Niugent scored a game-high 34 points for the Bears (3-1, 1-0 SSAC) while Chatchou recorded 13 rebounds for Truett-McConnell.
The Badgers shot 37.7% (26-69) on the night and were 5-of-21 (23.8%) from long distance while the Bears were 47.9% (34-71) from the field, but just 1-of-14 (7.1%) from beyond the arc.
SHC took away 24 turnovers off nine steals while the Bears benefited from 22 Badger fumbles and stole the ball 11 times.
SHC (1-2, 0-1) will next visit Central, S.C., on Saturday to face the Southern Wesleyan University Warriors (3-1, 0-1) in a conference game beginning at 6 p.m. EST.