Grace’s men’s basketball team had not beaten Indiana Wesleyan on the road in 11 years.
On Saturday, the Lancers ended that streak in dramatic fashion.
Grace stunned the NAIA’s No. 1-ranked team 91-80, making a statement win and moving into a tie for second place in the Crossroads League.
The Lancers (14-4, 4-2 CL) shut down IWU’s high-octane offense for much of Saturday’s contest. The Wildcats (16-2, 4-2 CL) came into Saturday’s game averaging 96.4 points per game, good for third in the NAIA.
But Grace held IWU to 16 points below their season average. The Lancers also had the hot hand on offense, hitting 60 percent of their field goals and 44 percent of their 3-pointers.
The game started evenly as the teams traded small leads over the first 12 minutes. IWU led 26-23 with 8:53 remaining in the half before Grace made a game-changing run.
The Lancers rattled off 14 unanswered points over the next four minutes. Logan Irwin scored five points during Grace’s run, and Kyle Fillman added four. When the dust had settled, the Lancers had built up an 11-point cushion.
A 3-pointer from Brandon Vanderhegghen on Grace’s final possession of the half lifted the Lancers to a 45-38 lead at halftime.
The Wildcats quickly cut Grace’s lead down to five early in the second half. The Lancers answered with an offensive explosion, tallying 10 points in 1:36 of action to hold a commanding 65-47 lead.
IWU did not go down easily, however. The Wildcats made another rally to trim Grace’s margin to seven on a 3-point play by Jonny Marlin with 5:43 to play.
The Lancers’ defense then made a series of stops and held IWU scoreless for nearly three minutes. Grace recovered to earn a 13-point lead, and IWU was forced to foul to prolong the game.
Grace hit its free throws down the stretch to ice the game, making 11-of-14 during the final key minutes to secure the milestone victory. Grace’s victory also snapped a 10-game winning streak for IWU.
Vanderhegghen led Grace with 26 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals. He made 8-of-12 from the floor, including five triples.
Irwin scored 20 points with four assists and played all but 1:29 of the game. Erik Bowen recorded his 11th double-double of the year with 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Fillman made 7-of-8 from the floor for 16 points.
Caleb Featherston recorded seven points and three steals, and Chad Hoffer added five points and two steals.
IWU’s Lane Mahurin led all players with 29 points, and Bob Peters tallied 26.
Grace shot 60 percent for the game and survived 13 3-pointers from IWU. The Lancers forced the Wildcats into 16 turnovers and outscored the hosts 38-24 in the paint.
The Lancers will return home on Wednesday, hosting Goshen in a men’s/women’s doubleheader. The women will tip off at 6 p.m. with the men to follow at 8 p.m.