By Andy Krutsinger, Mt. Pleasant News
The Iowa Wesleyan basketball team played the role of spoiler on Saturday evening. The Tigers knocked off Webster University 88-83, giving the Gorloks their sixth conference loss and casting doubt on Webster?s conference tournament hopes.
The Tigers had to storm back from a halftime deficit once again, something they?ve been doing all season. Webster was red-hot on offense in the first half, going 21-39 from the field and 6-13 from the three-point line in route to a 50-33 advantage.
The Tigers completely flipped the game in the second half, just as they have all season. IW started the half on an 8-1 run. Jake Neubauer hit a jumper to start things off and both Austin Banks and Mitchell Drey nailed three-pointers, which cut the Webster lead to 51-41 early in the half.
?The guys came out and got a couple of really good looks early,? said head coach Alex Huisman about the spurt. ?They got it down to a 10-point game right away, and all of the sudden it?s a basketball game. I think that helped us. It gave us momentum and got the crowd back in the game.?
?The Gorloks did punch back and get the lead to 16 points on two different occasions, but the flow of the game helped IW. The Tigers continued to grind away against Webster?s zone defense.
IW began to gain serious ground midway through the half. Back-to-back three-pointers from Elijah Johnson and Brock Butler cut the lead to 72-67 with 9:38 left, and Neubauer hit a three with 8:21 remaining to make it a two-point ballgame at 72-70.
The two teams traded baskets to make it 76-72, but Neubauer and Johnson went back-to-back from three-point land to give the Tigers a 78-76 lead with 4:52 remaining. Webster?s Blake Ferrell tied the game just 20 seconds later with a jumper of his own and then gave the Gorloks their last lead with another jumper at the 4:03 mark.
Neubauer tied the game with 3:45 left at 80-80. The next two baskets went to Drey, who helped the Tigers get out to a two-possession lead, 84-80 with less than two minutes remaining.
Webster was able to cut it to three points in the final seconds, but a breakaway layup by Drey put the game on ice and the Tigers could celebrate a five-point victory.
After the game, Coach Huisman praised his team?s resilience in coming back yet again and talked about his three seniors (Butler, Drey and Johnson) who celebrated senior day with a victory.
?Everything that this program is right now is in large part due to them,? Huisman said. ?This group of seniors is the first group that has been here all four years with me, since I got the head job. They?ve been through a lot.?
Butler led the team with 27 points and nine rebounds. Drey had 24 points and seven assists and Neubauer tallied 17 points and six steals. Johnson and Banks scored nine points apiece and Camron Mack finished with two.
The Tigers moved to 5-16 overall and 5-9 in SLIAC play with the win. They will hit the road to play Westminster College on Wednesday, February 7, at 8 p.m.