FRANKLIN, Ind. – The Franklin College men's basketball team had a chance to tighten their grip on a Heartland Collegaite Athletic Conference (HCAC) tournament berth on Wednesday night with a win over conference-leading Rose-Hulman inside the Spurlock Center.
Led by a red-hot second half shooting performance and an air-tight defense late in the game, the Grizzlies (8-14, 7-8 HCAC) made it four wins in their last five games with a 75-64 triumph over the Engineers (14-8, 12-3 HCAC).
Sophomore Jordan Anderson set a new career-high with 20 points, giving him five straight double-digit performances. Franklin knocked down a season-high 14 three-pointers, 10 of which came in the second half that flummoxed a Rose-Hulman defense that forced the Grizzlies to attempt a season-high 34 attempts from long range.
"You have to be able to knock down threes against Rose-Hulman or you're going to have a tough time winning," Franklin head coach Kerry Prather said after notching his 499th career win. "We did a great job staying disciplined and not dribbling into traffic and risking turning the ball over. We did a great job on the defensive end and we battled against a really good team for 40 minutes."
"This was huge for our confidence," Anderson added. "We weren't knocking down our shots in the first half but we knew we were going to keep getting those looks in the second half we kept shooting with confidence and the shots started to fall."
Both defenses started the game strong and buckets were tough to come by for both sides in the opening portion of the game. Both teams knocked down less than a quarter of their shots in the opening 10 minutes and sat dead-locked at 8-8 heading into the second portion of the half.
The Grizzlies and Engineers would start to find their stroke on the offensive end as the first half wound down. The game's first big run of the night came late in the opening period, when a 12-2 spurt from the Grizzlies spotted the home team a 28-24 lead heading into the intermission.
Franklin wasted no time turning to the long ball to extend their lead, as Sam Gutierrez buried the first of 10 second half threes for the team's first bucket of the second half. The Grizzlies would knock down three more triples as part of an 11-2 run that stretched their lead to 44-33 with 12:35 to go in the game.
But the double-digit lead would slowly start to evaporate, and the Engineers were within a possession at 52-49 with 5:21 to play after a Nick McGrail layup. Rose would trim the lead to a point two minutes later, but the Grizzlies held their ground and slammed the door shut on a Rose comeback with a 13-2 run that made it 70-58 with one minute to play. That was more than enough breathing room for the Grizzlies, as Franklin closed things out at the line in the final minute.
Three other Grizzlies joined Anderson in double figures on Wednesday night. Gutierrez poured in 16 points, Atticus Felling chipped in with 15 off the bench and Borden Kennedy finished with 11 points and a team-high five assists. The Grizzlies shot 42.1 percent (24-for-57) from the field, connecting on 13-of-15 free throws.
Next up for Franklin is their final home game of the regular season on Saturday (Feb. 10) afternoon against Mount St. Joseph. Prior to the start of the game will be the senior day festivities, with tip-off set to follow at 3:00 p.m.