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Foresters' depth shines in big win

by Eric Andrews - eandrews@h-ponline.com

The Huntington University men’s basketball team grabbed their first win of the 2019 calendar year by defeating Goshen 93–75 in a road Crossroads League matchup.

The victory improved the Foresters’ overall season record to 13–6, including a 3–4 mark in their Crossroads League competitions.

Despite the Foresters being without their top two scorers, senior forward Tyler Arens and junior guard Konner Platt, Huntington received significant contributions from many others en route to the triumph.

Although the Foresters missed their first two field goal attempts of the game, Huntington responded well, converting on 15 of their next 16 attempts, establishing a commanding 36–18 lead just 12 minutes into the game. The hot start included runs of 8–0 and 11–0.

Goshen stopped the bleeding and held Huntington to 13 points in the final eight minutes of the half, scoring 20 of their own in the stretch. However, despite the late push from the Maple Leafs, the Foresters held a 49–38 lead entering halftime.

The Maple Leafs continued their strong play early in the second half, opening the frame on a 7–2 run to cut the Forester lead to just six points at 51–45 two and a half minutes into the second half. Goshen continued to cut into their deficit, bringing the score to 56–51 in favor of Huntington with 16:10 remaining.

However, the Forester offense would then reignite, stringing together a 9–0 run to increase their advantage to 14 points at 65–51 with 13:45 to play.

The teams would jockey back and forth throughout the remainder of the game, exchanging basket for basket the rest of the way. When the final buzzer sounded, Huntington and their less-than-ideal lineup had come away with the 93–75 victory.

“I thought our guys really played with a good focus about them all day,” said head coach Ty Platt. “(We) overcame the fact that we were missing a couple guys that are important cogs to our team for tonight’s game and just rose to the occasion. We came out really good offensively and had some balanced scoring and really had a balance about us that was there from the start to the finish.”

With their two top scorers out of the lineup, a lackluster offensive showing for Huntington would not have been out of the question. However, the Foresters stepped up to the plate, with four players burying double-digits.

Sophomore guard Zac Owens posted the second-best game of his career, dropping a game-high 28 points for the Foresters. Owens added three rebounds and two assists, as well as a game-high three steals.

“Zac was very efficient on the offensive end,” Ty Platt said. “(That) was really, really good for us.”

Freshman guard Peyton West sank a career-best 21 points to go along with six rebounds, one steal and three assists.

Freshman forward Caleb Middlesworth drained 19 points and hauled in five rebounds, while freshman forward Spencer Ballinger, who started for the first time in his collegiate career, scored a career-high 15 points and grabbed six rebounds to tie West for the team lead. Ballinger also snagged one steal.

(Spencer) really, really played well,” Ty Platt said. “He’s a guy that had not been getting very many minutes and seized his moment. (He) was really good for us.”

Senior guard Nick Macon rounded out the starting lineup with five points, three rebounds, two steals and a game-high eight assists.

Sophomore forward Wyatt Hughes scored four points off the bench for Huntington, adding a pair of rebounds, while junior forward Andrew Yoder completed the individual performances for the Foresters with one point, one rebound and one assist.

“Across the board, I thought all of our guys really performed pretty well,” Ty Platt said. “We were clicking (offensively).”

Demarkus Stuckey paced the Maple Leafs with 22 points and grabbed six rebounds and two steals and dished out a team-best seven assists.

Ben Cotton and Colten Noel tied for second on Goshen with 12 points apiece. Noel also recorded two rebounds and the lone block of the game, while Cotton swiped one steal in his night coming off the bench.

Carter Boos tallied 11 points to round out Goshen’s double-digit scorers, while Alhassan Barrie hauled in a game-high 10 rebounds for the Maple Leafs.

“I think our defense was pretty solid overall,” Ty Platt said. “They were a team that didn’t normally shoot that well from the perimeter, but they shot pretty (well) tonight, but I thought our guys were in the right spots and one hand feeds the other a little bit. That happened tonight for us, both offensively and defensively.”

Up next for the Foresters is another tough Crossroads League matchup, as they host No. 3 Indiana Wesleyan on Jan. 12. Opening tip-off for the contest is set for 3 p.m. in Platt Arena.