By Andy Krutsinger, Mt. Pleasant News
Spalding University left Olan G. Ruble Arena shell shocked on Wednesday night after Iowa Wesleyan stunned the Golden Eagles with an enormous comeback win, 81-79 in overtime.
The Tigers trailed by as much as 15 points in the second half, and found themselves in a 12-point hold with just four minutes remaining, but IW made play after play down the stretch to force OT and eventually win it.
Brock Butler, who began the game with three straight three-pointers, was the one to kick off the Tiger comeback. He hit a three-pointer with 3:41 left to cut the Spalding lead down to nine, at 69-60, with 3:41 showing on the clock.
Austin Banks raced past his defender for a layup, plus the foul, less than a minute later. He converted the three-point play and the crowd began to stir with the score at 69-63.
A couple of Spalding free throws stretched the lead back to eight points, but Butler came down and hit a three with 1:29 left to make it 71-66. On the ensuing Golden Eagle possession, Butler stripped the ball from Spalding?s Robert Benningfield and layed the ball in with 1:11 showing on the clock, cutting the lead to 71-68.
The Golden Eagles got an offensive rebound on the next Spalding possession and it looked like IW had to foul after a timeout was called with 21 seconds left. Jake Neubauer had other plans, stealing the inbounds bass, racing down the court and getting fouled on a layup attempt of his own, which ignited the home crowd. His two free throws cut the lead down to one point, at 71-70, with 17 seconds left.
Benningfield was fouled by the IW defense and went to the line to try and make it a three-point game. Instead, he missed both free throws and IW forward Mitchell Drey was fouled on the rebound, sending him to the line with the chance to tie or take the lead.
Drey hit one of two free throws, which tied the game at 71-71. Spalding got off two potential game-winners but they were both off and the game went in to overtime.
The Tigers trailed by six points just over two minutes into the overtime, but again the deficit didn?t hold. Elijah Johnson cut the lead to 77-74 on a three-pointer with 2:34 left. After a Spalding free throw, Drey converted an and-one to cut it to 78-77 with 1:19 remaining. Butler hit four free throws in the final 48 seconds and the IW defense held the Golden Eagles to just one point in the final 1:30.
After the game, Tiger coach Alex Huisman said the win was a product of his team never giving up. He also said the crowd noise helped fuel the Tigers, likening it to the atmosphere in last year?s win over Webster, a night when Johnson hit the game-winning shot with just 1.7 seconds remaining.
Butler finished the day with 36 points and eight rebounds to lead IW in the win. Drey finished with 11. Johnson scored nine. Jarryd Fernandes had eight. Banks and Neubauer ended the night with seven apiece and Camron Mack scored four.
The IW men moved to 4-14 overall and 4-7 in conference play with the win. They will hit the road to take on the high-scoring Greenville Panthers on Satudray, Jan. 27, at 3 p.m.