Lexington, Ky. – The Transylvania men's basketball team finished its 2018-19 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference opener against the Bluffton University Beavers on a 12-2 run, rallying for a 65-62 win at the Beck Center on Saturday afternoon.
Suddenly trailing 60-53 with four minutes remaining after waging a close game with the Beavers for the duration of the second half, the Pioneers dug in their heels to take the lead with 15 seconds left in the game for a thrilling victory to open up conference play.
Transylvania improved to 3-3 overall on the season and 1-0 in the HCAC while Bluffton suffered just its second loss of the season, starting 0-1 in HCAC play.
Senior guard Cooper Theobald came alive late in the game, scoring a team-high 15 points to lead the Pioneer charge. Sophomore guard Devin Twenty provided defense and execution, finishing with 13 points on 5 of 9 shooting and three rebounds. Freshman Luke Schroeder continued his budding inaugural campaign as a Pioneer, finishing with 12 points on 6 for 13 shooting from the field and the go-ahead basket.
Transylvania overcame hot early outside shooting by the Beavers to forge a close game for most of the afternoon before mounting the final rally.
Bluffton began the game shooting 5 of 7 from behind the arc, keyed by guard Andrew Renner's string of three 3-pointers within a 66-second span. The Pioneers experienced more defensive success over the final 10 minutes of the half, holding the Beavers to 1 of 5 shooting from the three-point line the rest of the way. Twenty drew a foul with two seconds left in the half and canned both free throws, cutting a previous seven-point advantage for Bluffton to 36-34 at the break.
The Pioneers began the second half on a 14-7 run as senior forward Bo Schuh struck twice inside and Theobald scored from the floor and the free-throw line. But Bluffton outscored Transylvania 13-7 for over a seven-minute stretch to build a 60-53 lead late in the half.
Theobald led the comeback with back to back buckets, cutting Bluffton's advantage to 60-57. Theobald then found sophomore guard Will Sivills on a backdoor cut to thin the Bluffton lead to 60-59 with under three minutes remaining. After Bluffton nailed a jumper for breathing room, Theobald hit again from the left elbow to make the game a one-point situation again.
Bluffton clinged to the 62-61 lead well into the final minute, but could not find another insurance basket. With 20 seconds left, Schroeder powered his way from the left block for the go-ahead basket and a 63-62 Transy lead.
The Beavers followed with a critical backcourt turnover and subsequent foul, which sent Twenty to the line for a one-and-one opportunity with eight seconds to go. Despite missing the free throw, Twenty quickly retreated on defense and conspired with Schroeder to force Bluffton guard Jameel Cosby into a double dribble, returning possession to the Pioneers with less than two seconds in the game.
Sivills was fouled and hit both free throws to raise Transy's lead to 65-62. Twenty intercepted the last gasp pass from Bluffton to conclude the win for the Pioneers. The Pioneers forced five Bluffton turnovers inside the final four minutes of the contest.
Transylvania reprises HCAC play on Wednesday as the Pioneers head to Hanover College for a 7:30 p.m. tip with the Panthers. The teams split the regular season series last year with each team winning at home.
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