A career day from Dennis Williams was not enough to propel Grace’s men’s basketball team to an upset of No. 1 Indiana Wesleyan.
Williams poured in 26 points to lead all scorers, but a late rally from the Lancers (9-2, 1-1 Crossroads League) came up short as IWU won 85-80 on Tuesday night.
The first half was tightly contested as the defending national champ Wildcats (10-0, 2-0 CL) held a slight lead for much of the period. Grace led 7-4 after tipoff, but the Wildcats responded with a 14-6 run to grab the lead.
Grace battled back to tie the game at 27-27 and took the lead 34-33 on a 3-pointer from Niko Read on the Lancers’ final possession of the half. But IWU scored just before the buzzer to go on top 35-34 at the break.
Grace continued to keep within striking distance in early minutes of the second half, trailing 45-41 with 15 minutes to play. But the Wildcats used a 10-4 run over the next three minutes to open up a double-digit lead and had more offense in store.
Indiana Wesleyan built up its cushion to 18 points with 5:22 to play before Grace made a late rally. After forcing IWU to the free throw line, Grace capitalized on missed Wildcat free throws to eventually trim their deficit to two possessions in the final 20 seconds.
Logan Irwin was instrumental in Grace’s comeback with nine points over the final four minutes of regulation.
A layup from Drew Perrin brought Grace to within five points, but it proved to be too little, too late.
Williams made 10-of-12 from the floor for his career-best 26 points. He also added four rebounds. Irwin finished with 16 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds.
Read tallied 14 points, 3 assists and 2 steals, Erik Bowen scored nine points in 13 minutes off the bench, and Caleb Featherston added five points and five assists.
Both teams finished with 36 rebounds, and Grace had two fewer turnovers (15 to 13). But the Wildcats connected on 54 percent of their field goals compared to 42 percent for the Lancers.
The Lancers’ next Crossroads League contest is on Saturday when Grace hosts a doubleheader with Goshen. The women’s squads will play at 1 p.m. at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center with the men’s teams to tip off at 3 p.m.