By Andy Krutsinger, Mt. Pleasant News
The Iowa Wesleyan men couldn?t pick up a win against the high-tempo Greenville Panthers on Saturday evening, but the Tigers did show a lot of fight. IW stormed back from a 30-point deficit to cut the lead to single digits, but the Greenville offense shut the door late and the Tigers fell 126-112.
The new cop of IW players struggled at first to match Greenville?s unique style of full-court pressure, quick shooting and five-player line changes. The Panthers took an incredible 36 three-point shots in the first half and hit 15 of them.
Greenville led by as much as 30 points when one of their three-point attempts found the back of the net with 6:11 remaining. That bucket doubled the Tigers up, making the score 60-30.
IW was able to survive in the first half, however. The Tigers trailed 75-48 at halftime, but a 27-point half from Brock Butler helped IW calm down and push back against the Panthers? style, something coach Alex Huisman said is a key to gaining ground on Greenville.
Huisman said the team prepared for the game by watching film of Greenville?s last game against Westminster College and told the players at halftime the game wasn?t as out of reach as the score indicated.
?We watched the film from last weekend,? Huisman explained after the game. ?Westminster got down 26 or so to start the second half, and they came back and made it a four-point game in the last couple of minutes. I just told the guys that it?s not over.?
The Tiger defense adjusted to Greenville?s style and held them to just 6-28 from outside in the second half. That allowed the offense to chip away with open layups after beating the hectic Panther press.
IW cut the lead to single digits in less than 11 minutes. The Tigers had the lead at 97-88 with 9:20 remaining, which was plenty of time given the flow of the game.
Greenville was able to stretch the lead to 17 points, at 113-99, with just under six minutes left, but IW kept grinding. A couple three-pointers from Elijah Johnson and a handful of inside shots from the rest of the team kept the pressure on, and the Tigers had the lead down to seven points, at 115-108, with 3:43 remaining.
IW couldn?t get many more shots to fall, however, and Greenville was able to slow up and eat clock as the final minutes ticked on. The Tigers lost the game by 14-points, but Coach Huisman says the comeback can do a lot for the team?s confidence.
?We obviously want to get a win, that?s the goal, but we?re happy to get the effort (and) the fight out of the guys,? Huisman said. ?They didn?t give up.?
Butler finished with 39 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Jarryd Fernandez collected a double-double of his own, scoring 29 points and pulling down 13 boards. Johnson scored 13 points on the night and Austin Rebel had 10 to give IW four double-digit scorers.
Camron Mack had six points in the loss. The duo of Jake Neubauer and Austin Banks scored five apiece. Alexander Flute had four points, and Avree Clark finished with one.
IW fell to 0-9 with the loss and 0-3 in conference play. They?ll travel to Carlinville, Ill., on Saturday, Dec. 16, for their next game, when they take on Blackburn College at 3 p.m.