ALLIANCE – The Heidelberg University men's basketball team saw their season come to a close on Tuesday as they fell at Mount Union in the quarterfinals of the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament. The Student Princes made a valiant comeback in the second half, but it came up just short as the hot-shooting Purple Raiders hung on for the 102-96 win to advance to Thursday's semifinals.
Heidelberg's season ends with an overall record of 14-12.
Heidelberg committed 19 turnovers in the game, which resulted in 24 points for Mount Union, turning out to be the difference in the contest.
The Student Princes did have a solid offensive night, shooting 60% from the field and 55.6%. Despite that, they managed just 60.9% from the free throw line after leading the conference all season.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The game opened up at a blistering pace, and it kept up throughout the half. After the Purple Raiders jumped out to an early 11-7 lead, Heidelberg battled back and took a 15-12 advantage after Taylor nailed a 3-pointer with 14:33 to play.
Mount Union was then able to take back control, as they pulled out to a 36-29 edge at the 8:32 mark, but the Student Princes answered with a 10-0 run, capped off by a pair of free throws by Kiere' Bennie to make it a 39-36 lead for the Berg.
Once again, however, MTU responded with a 20-4 run to take control before the half. A 3-pointer by JJ Kukura with two seconds left in the half gave the Purple Raiders a 59-46 lead at the break.
The second half turned into a back-and-forth affair, as with just over 10 minutes remaining, Mount Union still held onto an eleven point lead (79-68).
Every time Heidelberg was able to knock down a big shot, Mount Union answered, as both teams continued to shoot exceptionally well while the Purple Raiders were able to force the Student Princes into turnovers that made the difference. Mount continued to hold onto a 10 point lead (86-76) with 6:22 to play.
Heidelberg finally found a run with under five minutes to play, as a 6-0 burst made it just an 88-84 deficit with 4:48 left in the game.
The Student Princes were able to cut the lead down to just three with 3:10 to play, but Mount Union had yet another response. A pair of consecutive baskets with under two minutes left stretched the Purple Raider lead back out to eight (98-90).
Not to be dismayed, Bennie knocked down a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession to cut the lead down to five. After a steal on the inbounds by Chris Moxley, Bennie attempted another trey, but he was fouled. He made just one of the three free throws, and after stealing the ball away from Mount, Heidelberg turned the ball back over to MTU with 22 seconds left in the game.
Despite Mount Union turning the ball over on the ensuing inbounds, HU missed the shot on their next possession, forcing them to foul. Mount Union was able to keep the Berg at bay down the stretch, as Heidelberg's season ended with a 102-96 defeat.
Head coach Andy Bucheit on his team's ability to battle back in the second half: "We talked to our guys all week about staying the course, no matter what Mount threw at us. They've got a lot of firepower, and that's a team that was in the sweet 16 last year, so they're going to come out, and they're going to come out firing, but if we can just stay right there with them and be right there at the end of the game, making plays, we can give ourselves a chance. I thought we did a tremendous job of doing that, not getting concerned with them having a 13 or 15 point lead, but giving ourselves a chance to take the game from them. At the end of the day, they just made one too many plays."
Bucheit on the play of Blue and Taylor: "Those were seniors playing like it was their last night. Blue came out and punched them in the mouth with those early baskets and you could tell from the get go that Marcquice was engaged, and when he's engaged, he's really, really good. Those seniors have given us a lot over the course of their years here. It hasn't always been easy for them with whatever situation they may have been in, but they stayed the course and are a good example for our young guys of how to act. Whatever success our program has moving forward will be in large part because of those two guys."
Bucheit on the future of the program with a young roster: "Out of the guys who have been playing for us lately, nine of the 12 are 1st or 2nd year players in our program. We have an exciting future, but we have a lot of work to do in the offseason in the gym to work to where we want to get to."