The Tennessee Wesleyan College men could catch up, but couldn't find a way to stay up, leading to an 81-78 loss to visiting Southern Wesleyan University Wednesday night at James L. Robb Gymnasium.
The Bulldogs' demise was mostly self-inflicted, committing 22 turnovers, giving up 15 offensive rebounds, collecting only 11 of a possible 18 points at the free throw line and were just 13 of 38 shooting from 3-point range.
The opening possession for both teams was an omen of things to come. Wesleyan turned the ball over and Southern drained a '3' on their way to an early 9-3 lead. Justin Hicks hit a 3-pointer, added a short jumper and Zach Sherrill's layup knotted the score at 14. Matt Harper hit back-to-back treys as Wesleyan slipped in front, 22-21. In what would become another night-long trend, Southern went on a 17-5 run to lead 38-27. Harper, E'Jay Ward and Andy Cooper drained 3-pointers and Matt Towry's tip-in at the buzzer cut the halftime deficit to three, 38-35.
The rally continued into the second half as buckets by Towry and Isaiah Kirk lifted TWC on top 39-38. The Bulldogs' last lead came at 42-41 on a 3-point basket by Harper. Missing three straight free throws, TWC fell behind 60-50 and were down 64-53 before starting their last run. Two buckets by Hicks and one each from Harper, Jesse Booher and Dylan Powers trimmed the deficit to six, 69-63, with five minutes to play. Wesleyan made another steal, but failed to convert the layup and the game was delayed 30 minutes when the defender that disrupted the play slid head first into the wall, suffering a severe head laceration and concussion that required an ambulance to be called. The Warriors scored after play resumed to lead 72-63. Wesleyan then failed to score on three straight possessions trailing by five and never recovered.
Harper paced the Wesleyan scoring with 19 points and four steals. Ward added 16 with 11 assists, Hicks 14 points and Towry 14 to go with 12 rebounds.
The Bulldogs have a rematch with the Warriors of Southern Wesleyan on November 23rd at 7:00 pm in South Carolina. This will be their last game before Thanksgiving and then the Dwain Farmer Round Ball Classic will begin on Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving. The Bulldogs will play at 8:00 on Friday against Warren Wilson, while AAC rival Bryan College will play at 6:00 against sSouthern Virginia. On Saturday, Bryan will meet up with Warren Wilson at 2:00 pm with the Bulldogs playing Southern Virginia at 4:00 pm.