TIFFIN -- The Heidelberg University men's basketball team pulled off the upset of No. 23 Mount Union on Senior Day, defeating the Purple Raiders in convincing fashion by a final score of 87-70. The Student Princes held a three point edge at halftime, but a dominating second half, including a 19-0 run, propelled them to the big win, their first over a ranked team since 2011.
Heidelberg had four players in double-figures and outrebounded Mount Union, 46-39.
With the win, Heidelberg improved to 12-11 (7-9 OAC) while Mount Union fell to 15-7 (11-4 OAC).
Kiere' Bennie led Heidelberg with a game-high 22 points, including 10-for-11 shooting from the free throw line. He scored just four points in the first half, but after nailing a 3-pointer to open the second half he found his groove.
Freshmen bigs Myron Prewitt and Maurice Hunter combined for 19 rebounds as they faced the tall task of guarding Jarrett Ruffin. Prewitt finished with 12 points and eight boards while Hunter had four points and 11 rebounds.
Points off of turnovers played a big part in the upset for the Berg, as they scored 24 points off of 17 Mount Union miscues.
HOW IT HAPPENED
With the score tied at nine in a frenetic first half, Mount Union scored seven straight points and led 16-9 with 12:15 remaining. Heidelberg responded with an 8-0 run, capped by a Kiere Bennie layup with 10:21 left.
Mount Union countered with an 11-3 run to regain a seven-point cushion, 27-20, with 6:23 left. Undaunted, the Tricolor battled back in and took a 33-31 lead on a 3-pointer by Marcquice Taylor with 2:19 remaining, which prompted a Mount Union timeout. At halftime, Heidelberg held a 39-36 lead.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Bennie allowed Heidelberg to build its lead early in the second half. Heidelberg led 58-47 with 10:39 left, as seemingly every loose ball and whistle went in favor of the Student Princes.
Mount Union closed the lead to eight at 60-52 with 9:42 left. With a chance to hack into the lead more, an offensive foul by Purple Raider big man Zach Neuenschwander helped ignite a critical Heidelberg run. Over the next 4:22, HU outscored Mount 19-0 and led 79-52. Offensive boards and putbacks by Myron Prewitt and Maurice Hunter -- both freshmen -- helped bolster the Berg advantage.
Though Mount Union closed the gap late with a barrage of 3-pointers, Heidelberg slowed down the pace of the contest and were able to run out the clock for the 87-70 win.
INSIDE THE BOX SCORE
Heidelberg's last win over Mount Union was a 76-70 triumph on Jan. 23, 2010. The Purple Raiders had won 10 straight over Heidelberg.
The victory was the first over a ranked opponent in the Andy Bucheit era. Heidelberg beat then-No. 24 Marietta 81-77 on Jan. 8, 2011. Coincidentally, Bucheit was associate head coach for the Pioneers at the time.
Heidelberg hit a season-high 28 free throws in the win. On the season, the Student Princes are shooting 75.5% from the charity stripe, which leads the OAC.
Saturday's game was the final home regular season contest for seniors Jackson Blue and Marcquice Taylor. Blue, who had just played in his 100th game for Heidelberg, was doused with a bucket of water following the game.
Head coach Andy Bucheit on his team's play towards the end of the regular season: "I think we've played some really good basketball the past three weeks. Some of our losses, we just didn't' shoot it very well. I really like where we're at as a team with our focus, the press, our offense and our tempo. I think we're in a really good place right now."
Kiere Bennie on the win and their gameplan: "I think throughout the season, we've stuck to our plan. We've always been in team's faces with fullcourt pressure, so nothing really changed in this game. We were just dialed in for all 40 minutes from start to finish, and it was senior day, so it was nice to see them out with a win, especially in a big game against one of the top teams in our conference and the nation."
Heidelberg hits the road for the final two regular season contests of the season, looking to further-improve its tournament seeding. They visit Capital University 12-11 (8-8 OAC) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Crusaders are in fifth place in the OAC, one game in front of Heidelberg in the standings