Pilots suffer devastating loss to Taylor

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A recent downward spiral for the Bethel College men's basketball team reached a new low with a 79-72 loss at the hands of the Taylor University Trojans on Tuesday, Feb. 18. After a loss against Huntington a week ago, it seemed that the Pilots were playing with disaster in a six-point win over lowly Mount Vernon on Saturday.
Bethel head coach Mike Lightfoot
Bethel head coach Mike Lightfoot
Well, disaster struck in Upland. The trip to Taylor has not been kind to the Pilots in recent years - they haven't won in Upland since 2009. A quick look at the stat line tells the story for the Pilots: 14 missed free throws (17-31), 38 percent shooting from the field and 35 percent shooting from three-point range. Even so, the Pilots held an eight-point lead late in the first half. However, a late Trojan run gave them some momentum heading into halftime with the Pilots leading 34-32 at the break. In the second half, the Pilots went cold - like Mishawaka in January type of cold. They went just 11-33 from the field in the second half. The defense wasn't much better. The Pilots allowed Taylor to score their second-highest point total of the season with 79 points. The only game where the Trojans scored more was in an overtime win against Spring Arbor. The lone bright spot for the Pilots was the play of junior point guard Matt Schauss who set a new career high (breaking a record he set in the previous game) with 29 points in a game. Senior Ryan Benner and freshman Caleb Oetjen both scored 12 points. However, it was the play of star guard Zach Miller that was a telling sign of the Pilots' effort on Tuesday night. Six points on 0-6 from three-point land. The loss drops the Pilots to sole possession of fifth in the latest Crossroads League standings with only one game left in the regular season. A loss like this brings many things into question. Do the Pilots have what it takes to play with the best? Is there a lack in leadership? Can the Pilots win without an interior presence? Is this defense good enough to win consistently? It also affects their chances to make the NAIA National Tournament in March. On Tuesday night, Indiana Wesleyan University clinched their sixth straight regular season Crossroads League title, earning them one of the conference's two automatic bids to the NAIA tournament. The other automatic bid goes to the winner of the conference tournament. If the Pilots cannot win that, then they must hope to grab one of ten at-large bids. However, one of those is reserved for tournament host College of the Ozarks, so in reality there are only nine spots available. Before the loss against Taylor, a Bethel athletic source speculated that the Pilots were probably in the second or third at-large spot. After the loss, that same source said that the Pilots were probably in the ninth and final spot. The pressure is on. The Pilots are now 22-7 overall and 11-6 in the Crossroads League. They will next face their archrival, Grace College coming off an embarrassing loss of their own (75-65 at the hands of Mount Vernon). Then, the Lancers will come to Mishawaka to play the Pilots on Senior Night in the final home contest of the 2013-14 regular season. Tip-off is Saturday at 3 p.m.  
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