Men's Basketball

Pilots fall against no. 2 IWU 88-82 behind 33 from Mahurin

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MARION, Ind. – November 26, 2013 It was just as advertised - gritty, physical, hard-fought basketball with lots of scoring. But in the end, the Bethel men's basketball team came up a little bit short in an 88-82 defeat at the hands of Indiana Wesleyan (IWU) on Tuesday night. The Pilots came into the game ranked no. 9 while the Wildcats were no. 2. Needless to say, this was a big game. Before the contest, the focus was on whether IWU would be able to guard Zach Miller. Bethel’s star shooting guard has been lights out from beyond the arc, and the Wildcats did not want to let him beat them.
Bethel lost against Indiana Wesleyan 88-82 on Tuesday night.
Bethel lost against Indiana Wesleyan 88-82 on Tuesday night.
“Let’s hope he doesn’t make ten threes on us,” said IWU head coach Greg Tonagel. “If we hold him to five, I think we’d be happy.” But Miller was his usual self in the first half despite the Wildcats’ tough defense on him. He went three of four from three-point land in the first half, and none of them were easy. And yet, the Pilots could never seem to fully grab the momentum. Indiana Wesleyan was in control for much of the first half, but the Pilots kept fighting back. The Pilots tied the game at 31 midway through the first half, but the stars for the Wildcats closed out the half. Senior guard Jordan Weidner came in averaging 19.5 PPG, and he hit a couple big threes as the clock was winding down in the half. Senior forward RJ Mahurin transferred to IWU from Indiana State, and he was another key in the first half for the Wildcats with 14 points. But he would have an even greater impact later. Despite keeping it close for the entire first half, the Pilots gave up a late run and trailed the Wildcats 48-40 heading into halftime. The second half would belong to Mahurin. Behind a few threes by the big man, IWU raced to an 11-point lead early in the second half. But then it seemed as if Matt Schauss and Zach Miller had switched jerseys at halftime. While Miller was being hounded by the Wildcats’ defense, Schauss stepped up and hit two big threes and a driving layup to cut into the IWU lead. Then a three from Miller tied the game with about ten minutes left. Momentum was with the Pilots. Then Mahurin hit another three. But Mahurin’s outside shooting wasn’t the only theme that would characterize the rest of the game – questionable officiating also reared its ugly head. After Mahurin’s jumper, IWU stole the ball from Bethel guard Travis Smith at halfcourt and scored on a breakaway layup after seemingly pushing Smith to the ground. The Bethel faithful instantly erupted, but IWU had just taken a seven-point lead. Smith then took the inbounds pass and hurried down the court looking for revenge. He got it as he was fouled on the drive and went to the line. Now, usually, when someone is at the free throw line and the ref gives him the ball, he is cleared to shoot. Smith did this and hit the shot. But the refs seemingly signaled, after the shot, that IWU was subbing in players. They took the points off the board and made Smith shoot again after a long discussion. He missed. Despite that turn of events, the Pilots managed to trim the Wildcats’ lead to one point. Then Mahurin hit some more threes. I feel like I’m repeating myself. Despite the fact that the 6’9’’ big man came into the game shooting 16 percent from behind the arc, he looked like…well he looked like Zach Miller in this one. But once again, the Pilots managed to stick around and only trailed 78-76 with just under four minutes to play. Then a huge bucket from Pat Oetting tied the game at 78 in crunch time. But just moments later, Oetting was called for a very questionable charge which was his fifth foul of the game. That would prove costly, as now the Pilots would have to call on someone else to guard Mahurin. Another iffy call on the other end gave Weidner an and-one opportunity, of which he took advantage. That gave IWU an 81-78 lead with 2:07 to go. Next time down the court, IWU nailed a dagger three-pointer. Want to guess who hit it? Actually no, it wasn’t Mahurin and it wasn’t even Weidner. Zac Vandewater hit his only three of the second half, but it was a killer. It gave IWU an 84-80 lead with 1:25 left in the game. But the Pilots would not give up. A sweet spin move from Ryan Benner cut the lead to two, 84-82. But that was the last bucket that Bethel would score. The Pilots couldn’t find a good shot down the stretch, and Weidner hit a jumper that all but sealed the game. The Wildcats iced it away at the free throw line, and that was it. Mahurin was the star of the game with 33 points on 7 of 10 shooting from three. The Pilots were led by Schauss, who scored 22 points and grabbed six boards. Miller had a productive game, though it was not up to his high standards. He scored 15 points with four three-pointers. Benner also added 17. After the game, the Pilots were visibly frustrated. “It’s a tough loss,” said Head Coach Mike Lightfoot. While the post-game discussion amongst the fans centered on what they called poor officiating, Lightfoot, as you would expect him to, downplayed its significance. “We had to overcome some tough calls tonight, but you’re going to have that,” Lightfoot said. “You can’t say the refs affected the game. I just thought there were some critical plays.” However, he did say that the foul call which knocked out Pat Oetting from the game had a ripple effect. “I feel bad for Pat Oetting,” said Lightfoot. “He played great tonight, but just didn’t get to play (at the end). Then with Pat out, Mahurin just took over.” Speaking of Mahurin, how was he able to hit seven threes on the night? “He was shooting 16 percent on the season, so we didn’t really key on his three-point shot too much,” said Schauss. “We should have made a few adjustments but were unable to do so.” The Pilots fall to 8-1 while the win gives IWU the same record. The two teams play again on Saturday, Jan. 25 at Bethel at 3 p.m. The loss comes one week before the initial NAIA Division II poll is released. Below is a link to postgame interviews with Coach Lightfoot and Matt Schauss.
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