ANGOLA, Ind. - In a battle of the third and fourth place teams in the MIAA, The Trine University men's basketball team held off a three-point blitz from Olivet College 81-77. The win moves the Thunder into a tie for second place with Hope with a 4-1 conference record and 11-5 overall on the season.
Trine came out on fire, scoring the first six points of the game and holding Olivet without a basket through the opening three minutes as the Thunder would open with an 11-3 run through the first 4:11 of the game. Olivet would have an answer for Trine's hot streak as they held the Thunder without a basket for nearly four minute as they cut the lead to just two.
After trading baskets, Olivet would tie the game at 17-17. Trine junior Todd Watkins (Cincinnati, Ohio/St. Bernard) would hit a jumper but the Comets quickly answered back with a three by Jeff Cain to take their first lead of the game with 7:45 left in the half. Olivet's Garner Small would hit another three on their next possession as the Comets pulled out in front 23-19. That would be their largest, and last lead of the game as the Thunder defense held them to just a pair of free throws over the next 6:50. The Thunder would use that run to take a 10 points lead, 35-25 with 2:13 remaining as Trine headed into the break leading 37-30.
The two sides opened the second half by trading buckets as the Thunder would again lead by double-digits. Olivet would quickly cut the lead to just three as the Thunder called a timeout to recover. Coach Miller used the break to send the Thunder on a 6-0 run leading 48-39 five minutes into the half. The Thunder defense would then struggle to contain the Comets and their three-point shooters as they hit six straight field goals from behind the arc. During that stretch Olivet cut the Trine lead to just one, before the Thunder answered back with a combination of free throws and layups.
Trine would push their lead back to eight at 71-63 with 4:48 to play in the game. The Comets would not go away though as they scored six unanswered points to close the game to just two. Senior Scott Rogers (Waterford, Mich./Kettering) refused to let Olivet back into it. On Trine's ensuing possession Rogers slammed home his second dunk of the night on a pass from fellow senior Ian Jackson (Indianapolis, Ind./Perry Meridian). The team would once again trade baskets before Olivet hit yet another three with just 24 seconds left to put the score 79-77. Trine freshman Jared Holmquist (Reed City, Mich./Reed City) would hit a pair of free throws with 15 seconds to play as the Thunder defense held the Comets scoreless on their final three attempts.
Five different Trine players scored in double-digits, their most since the second game of the season. Rogers led all players with 23 points on 9-of-18 shooting from the floor. Rogers also added in a game-high three blocks to go along with six rebounds, three assists and two steals. Freshman Nick Tatu (Clarkston, Mich./Clarkston) and Watkins both finished with 14 points, 12 of Watkins came in the first half. Jackson had a solid all-around game, finishing the night with 13 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals. Holmquist nearly earned a double-double, ending the night with 10 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Sophomore guard Dustin Hall (Fort Wayne, Ind./South Side) finished the day with a season- and game-high nine assists.
Trine shot an outstanding 53.8% (14-of-26) from the floor in the second half and finished the night hitting 46.6% (27-of-58). Over half of Olivet's made fields goals came from long range, hitting 16-of-29. The Thunder committed a season-low nine fouls, sending Olivet to the free throw line just eight times (7-of-8) while Trine went 25-of-32, both of which were season-highs.
Trine will be right back in action on January 19 when they host 22nd ranked and conference leading Calvin at 3:00 p.m.