LEXINGTON, Ky. – The opening round of Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) play came to an end for the Grizzly men's basketball team on Wednesday (Jan. 16) night, as Franklin traveled south to meet conference co-leader Transylvania University.
The Grizzlies (4-12, 2-7 HCAC) erased a double-digit deficit in the second half and tied the game with less than one minute to go. But the Grizzlies couldn't come up with the go-ahead bucket, falling to the Pioneers (10-6, 7-2 HCAC) by a 76-72 count.
"We keep following a similar pattern in games," Head coach Kerry Prather said. "We make mistakes to fall behind, battle back and play better to get back in the game and come up short late. We're still looking for consistency when it comes time to make plays late in games. Our effort is great and it has been all year, but we need to lock in to our long stretches of good play and minimize the damage we do to ourselves in crunch-time situations."
Franklin surged out to an early double-digit lead thanks to a ten straight points that gave them a 14-4 advantage less than five minutes into the game. The Pioneers would fight back with an 11-2 run, but their go-ahead bid was halted when Sam Gutierrez buried a three to make it 19-15 with just under 12 minutes to go in the first half.
The two sides traded the lead five times and were tied four times through the rest of the first half. The Pioneers would pot the final six points of the opening half to take a slim 34-31 lead into the locker room at the break. Franklin got contributions up and down their lineup in the opening 20 minutes, as eight different players found their way onto the scoresheet.
Trasny stretched their lead to double figures for the first time early in the second half, opening the frame with an 11-4 run to make it a 45-35 game with just over 15 minutes to play. But the next seven minutes saw the Grizzlies dig in at both ends of the floor, erasing the deficit entirely with a 20-4 run that was capped by a Matt Krause three that made it 57-51 Franklin with eight minutes to play.
The Pioneers would battle back to take the lead and begin a frantic push to the finish that saw three more lead changes and neither team leading by more than one possession. Down by three with less than a minute to go, the Grizzlies drew even when Gutierrez converted on a three-point play to even things up at 69. But the Pioneers would convert on a three-point play of their own right after the Grizzlies tied the game and after the next Franklin possession came up empty, the hosts were able to seal the game at the line.
Krause came off the bench to finish with a team-high 17 points and grab eight rebounds. Gutierrez added 15 points and Kale Morris chipped in with 11 on the night. Borden Kennedy added eight points and handed out a season-high seven assists in a reserve role. Franklin shot 43.9 percent (25-for-57) from the floor, going 9-for-20 from deep and 13-for-14 at the line.
Franklin returns to action at home on Saturday (Jan. 19), taking on the Hanover Panthers in the start of round two of conference play. Tip-off from the Spurlock Center is set for approximately 4:00 p.m.