Lexington, Ky. – Sophomore guard Michael Jefferson delivered a career-high 29 points in an efficiently dominant performance as the Transylvania men's basketball team erased a double-digit deficit to defeat the Thomas More Saints, 86-75 in the final game of the 2018 Don Lane Classic presented by ECoach.
Jefferson hit 12 of 14 field goals as the sophomore jumpstarted a lackluster offense for the Pioneers in the first half, spurring the Pioneers to victory.
After falling behind by 13 points multiple times in the first half, Jefferson helped engineer a 22-10 run by the Pioneers over the final six and a half minutes of the period to cut Thomas More's lead to 41-40 by halftime.
Thomas More jumped out to a 31-18 lead behind three-point sharpshooting by guard Max Knisley combined with a 3 for 13 start from the field by the Pioneers. But with six minutes left in the half, the Pioneers began to employ effective full-court pressure to stifle Thomas More's rush while converting high-percentage opportunities the other way on offense.
Sophomore Gabe Schmitt knocked down a pair of free throws and converted a runner as part of Transy's 22-10 half-ending run, while Jefferson scored five buckets during that stretch, punctuated with a two-handed slam dunk to cut Thomas More's advantage to 39-38. The sophomore carved through the Saints' defense at the halftime buzzer to bring the Pioneers within one.
Out of the halftime break, the Pioneers went on a 10-2 run to grab a 51-43 lead. The Saints inched back, cutting Transylvania's lead to two points but freshman center Luke Schroeder answered with an inside jumper and sophomore guard Will Sivills hit back to back three-pointers to forge the Pioneers' first double-digit lead of the night.
The Saints cut Transylvania's lead back down to seven points with six minutes remaining, but Jefferson continued to slice Thomas More's defense, attacking the basket with success and finding teammates on the way to a game-high seven assists.
The Pioneers outshot Thomas More in the second half, 63 percent to 44 percent from the field for their fourth home victory in five games this season.
Schmitt finished the game with 13 points, hitting on all six of his free throw attempts. The Pioneers shot 22 for 26 from the free throw line, 22 percent above their team free-throw average entering the night.
Schroeder added 12 points, five rebounds and a block as he and Jefferson were named to the Don Lane Classic All-Tournament Team.
Transylvania outrebounded Thomas More 32-23 to eventually win the battle in the paint, coupled with its 48-32 painted area scoring advantage.
The Pioneers will pause over their holiday break before returning to action on Wednesday, January 2, 2019 to host the Earlham College Quakers in a Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference matchup. The teams will tip off at 5:00 p.m. at the Beck Center.
For more on Transylvania men's basketball, follow @TransyHoops on Twitter
2018 Don Lane Classic All-Tournament Team
Damion King, Thomas More
Luke Schroeder, Transylvania
Michael Jefferson, Transylvania
Alex Karras, UChicago
Jordan Baum, Most Outstanding Player, UChicago