MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - The Huntington men’s basketball team squeaked out a 56-53 road win over Mount Vernon Nazarene University (3-7, 0-3) Saturday afternoon in newly constructed Ariel Arena to remain perfect on the season at 11-0, 3-0 in league play.
For the first time this season, the Foresters headed into intermission without a lead. Shooting a dismal 27.6 percent (8-for-29) in the first period, HU struggled to get much going offensively as reflected on the scoreboard that read 25-25 after the opening stanza.
A tie was somewhat of a moral victory as the Foresters had only 16 points through the first 18 minutes before two rookies stepped up to score the half’s last nine points. Derek Hinen connected on an old-fashioned three-point play and then Drew Benedict drained back-to-back treys from deep to pull things even by halftime.
Benedict entered the contest ranked 16th in the nation in 3-point FG% at 50.0 percent. To date he has knocked down 21 triples and none bigger than his two before the break this afternoon.
The first four minutes of the second half was a like a ping pong match as both teams vied for an advantage. The Cougars took what proved to be their final lead of 31-29 with 15:53 remaining before Derek Hinen cashed in on his second traditional three-point play of the day to give his team a slight lead that would stick.
For only the second time this season, the Foresters were never able to balloon the lead to double digits. Their biggest lead came with just over seven minutes remaining when they enjoyed a 45-37 advantage. MVNU trimmed the lead the five on the next possession but Hinen single-handedly squelched the Cougars’ hope of a heroic finish by scoring eight of HU’s final 11 points to secure the road win.
Hinen finished with 19 points to share game-high honors with MVNU’s Martell Medley. Shane Merryman was HU’s only other double digit scorer with 15. He also ripped down a game-high 11 rebounds for his fifth double double of the year.
In addition to Medley’s 19 points, Eric Roby scored 14 points for the Cougars.
Shooting was a struggle for Huntington all day as they topped out at 33.9 percent from the field (19-for-56) and only 56.5 percent from the charity stripe (13-for-23). Fortunately, the visitors made up for their shooting woes by committing only six turnovers to Mount Vernon’s nine and winning the rebounding battle 40-37.
HU has the week off for finals before hosting Silver Lake College (WI) Saturday at 5:00 p.m.