TIFFIN – The Heidelberg University men's basketball team continued their hot start to the season on Wednesday, eclipsing the century mark in points and setting a new school record for steals in the process, defeating Westminster College by a final score of 103-89. Six different Student Princes scored in double figures as they held off a rally by the Titans in the second half.
The Berg got off to a fast start in the ball game, building a 13-2 lead early on after Chris Moxley knocked down a layup four minutes in. Westminster then scored the next eight points, pulling within three after Deontay Scott scored just over seven minutes into the first half.
A lot of back-and-forth action was featured in the remainder of the first half and the Titans took advantage of the close game and took a one-point lead with just over a minute to play before halftime. Heidelberg would not stay down, however, as a layup by Jackson Blue and a free throw by James Hanley put the Student Princes ahead by a score of 48-46 entering the break.
The Berg got off to another quick start to open the second half and built up to a nine point lead when Ishaam Smith Jr. knocked down a 3-pointer with just over 12 minutes to play in the game, making the score 65-56. The lead was stretched to 13 when Smith Jr. knocked down another trey, making the score 74-61 with just under 10 minutes left.
Heidelberg was able to maintain their lead for a bit, holding a 10 point lead with 6:23 to go, but the Titans would come roaring back. A jumper, pair of free throws, and a 3-pointer brought the score to 82-79 with five minutes remaining in the second half. The game became a battle at this point, and Westminster had a chance to tie up the game with 3:30 left to play, but missed the second of two free throws as Heidelberg clung to a one point lead.
With just over two minutes left in the game, Hanley knocked down a layup and was fouled, converting the 3-point play to make the score 93-87. The pressure of Heidelberg's defense rattled the Titans at the end of the game as they were able to ice it with free throws, pulling away in the end for the 103-89 win.
"We always talk to our guys about wearing them down, wearing them out with our defensive pressure and running the ball up the floor," said head coach Andy Bucheit. "Late in the game, they started to turn it over more and any time you turn it over 32 times, it's going to be a tough night to win. Kiere (Bennie) and Jimmy (Hanley) come from really good high school programs and played at a really high level for four years, so it was just a matter of time before they had big games like that."
"We play a lot of guys, so we're all out there for about 20 minutes a game, so with us subbing five in and five out towards the end of the game the other team is worn out and we're still fresh, " said freshman Kiere Bennie, who scored 20 points in his second collegiate game.
"I missed my first one...but once I start feeling it I know these guys are confident in me and its an easy transition to the game from the way we practice," said James Hanley, who scored a team-high 22 points. "That's what we're trying to get out of our defense, to speed them up and to turn them over and they handled it pretty well in the beginning...I think our defense just wears them down."
"Coach Bucheit puts us in good positions, we practice really hard, they condition us really well in the offseason so we can pick them up full court in the game and get after it," said junior Jackson Blue, who scored 13 and pulled down six rebounds. "Late in the game, Marcquice did a great job of executing for us and getting us what we needed to be into."
As a team, Heidelberg recorded 22 steals, which broke the previous school record in a game, which was set in 1984 against Kenyon. The pressure defense displayed by the Student Princes forced Westminster into 32 turnovers in the game.
Heidelberg moved to 2-0 with the win and will be back on the court this weekend when they travel to Bethany (W.V.). That non-conference matchup is scheduled to tip off at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 22.