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Huntington holds off late Taylor rally

POINTS: Freshman forward Caleb Middlesworth drained a game-high 27 points in Huntington’s 89–83 victory over Taylor on Tuesday night.

by Eric Andrews - eandrews@h-ponline.com

The RV Huntington University men’s basketball team claimed an 89–83 victory over Crossroads League foe Taylor on Tuesday night in Platt Arena, improving the Foresters’ record to 8–3 on the season, including a 1–2 mark in Crossroads League play.

The defeat dropped Taylor’s season record to 4–7, falling to 2–2 in Crossroads League action.

Huntington got out to a quick start, grabbing an early 14–6 lead less than five minutes into the contest. The Foresters would go on to extend the lead as the half progressed, eventually holding a 31–15 advantage thanks to back-to-back three-pointers from freshman forward Caleb Middlesworth, forcing a Taylor timeout.

The Trojans would limit the damage the rest of the half, but when the frame ended, the Foresters possessed a 42–29 lead.

“Defensively, in the first half, we were really, really good,” said head coach Ty Platt, a Taylor graduate. “We made them take contested shots. I thought that we switched aggressively. We were dialed in defensively in the first half and that helped us big time, because that led to good offense. We shared the ball really well offensively.”

The second half would feature more offense from both sides, as Taylor’s offense erupted for 54 points in the half, including an 8–2 run midway through the period that forced Huntington to call a timeout to slow the game down. However, Huntington responded with a 13–2 run of their own to open up a 20-point lead at 74–54 with 6:56 remaining in the game.

Taylor scratched its way back with a late push, closing the gap to as small as five points at 84–79 with 1:37 to play. Mason Degenkolb nearly trimmed the Forester lead to two points, but his three-point bid clanked off the rim before being hauled in by the Huntington defense. The Foresters would go on to hold off the Trojans the rest of the way to earn the 89–83 victory.

“Second half, (we) didn’t have quite the defensive effort we needed,” Platt said. “They’re awfully dangerous; Taylor is very good at shooting the basketball. You (have) to (play well) for the whole 40 (minutes) and we just about didn’t do it for the whole 40, but we’re very, very happy that we came out of here with a victory.”

Middlesworth paced the Forester offense with a game-high 27 points, adding four rebounds. Sophomore guard Zac Owens sank 21 points in the victory for Huntington to go along with six assists and four rebounds. Senior forward Tyler Arens and junior guard Konner Platt rounded out the Foresters’ double-digit point producers with 14 each. Freshman guard Peyton West posted game-highs in rebounds (nine) and assists (11) for Huntington.

Taylor received 25 points from Ryan Robinson, who also tallied a team-leading five assists. Degenkolb buried 18 points for the Trojans, dishing out a trio of helpers in the loss. James McCloud finished the Taylor double-digit podium with 10 points, hauling in seven rebounds, tied for most on the team alongside CJ Penha.

“We didn’t play like we wanted to,” said Taylor head coach Josh Andrews. “I credit Huntington. Their length bothered us (and) forced us into some bad decisions at times. I thought they shot it in and executed better than us today.”

Huntington will return to action on Dec. 8, hosting Grace in another Crossroads League matchup at 3 p.m. in Platt Arena.

The Trojans’ next contest comes on Dec. 7 against Grace Christian in Taylor’s 22nd-Annual Silent Night game at Odle Arena. Opening tip-off for the iconic tradition is scheduled for 6 p.m.