ANDERSON, Ind. – The Franklin College men's basketball team had a chance at sole possession of first place in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) when they met up with league co-leader Anderson University on Saturday (Jan. 11) afternoon.
Saturday's matchup didn't disappoint as both teams left it all on the floor with first place up for grabs. But a dominant defensive stretch late in the game proved just what the Grizzlies (9-4, 5-1 HCAC) needed to win their sixth straight game, as they handed the Ravens (7-6, 4-2 HCAC) a 77-64 loss.
"Coming into this we knew this was going to be a battle of two of the best defensive teams in the league," Head coach Kerry Prather said afterwards. "The stretch we put together to close out the game is about as well as we can defend. Anderson can beat you from anywhere on the floor and for us to take a single possession lead and blow it open late because of how well we defended makes you proud as a coaching staff."
Franklin gained a double-digit lead early in the opening period, using an 11-0 run to make it 20-8 with 11:46 to go in the first half. The Grizzly lead would stay in double figures until late in the half, when the Ravens used a potent long-range attack to slice into the FC lead with a 13-4 run to close the half. Anderson knocked down six first half threes, but the Grizzlies would head into the break with a 36-35 advantage.
The intermission proved to be just what the Grizzlies needed, as they came out of the break white hot offensively. The first 7:30 of the second half yielded a 13-2 Grizzly run, stretching the lead back out to double figures at 49-37. But the hosts refused to go down without a fight, scoring 20 of the game's next 28 points to get back within a point at 58-57 with seven minutes to go.
But Franklin would regroup after giving up the lead, and the final seven minutes proved to be one of sheer dominance on the defensive end. Franklin limited one of the league's top offenses to just one field goal over the next six minutes, busting open a one-possession game and making it a decisive win.
Franklin junior Payton Mills dominated the game inside, pouring in a game-high 20 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Fellow big man Matt Krause added 15 points and a game-high 14 boards while Borden Kennedy and Sam Gutierrez also reached double figures with 14 and 13 points, respectively.
The Grizzlies shot 49.1% (27-for-55) from the floor, going 3-for-11 from deep and 20-for-21 from the free throw line. Defensively, the Grizzlies held the league's most efficient offense to just 30.3% (23-for-76) from the floor and 33.3% (10-for-30) from long range.
Rebounds were 47-32 in Franklin's favor with the Grizzlies grabbing boards on 40 Raven misses. The Ravens held a 14-4 advantage in the turnover battle with FC dominating the scoring inside to the tune of 44-22.
Franklin looks to keep their winning streak going next Wednesday (Jan. 15), when they continue a three-game road trip at Mount St. Joseph. Start time between the Grizzlies and Ravens is set for 7:30 p.m.