Make it an even 10 in a row.
The NAIA Division II No. 19-ranked Goshen College men’s basketball team notched its 10th straight victory Saturday afternoon, with a hard-fought 76-66 win over No. 15 St. Francis.
It was the kind of win Goshen head coach Gary Chupp likes to see: A number of players stepping up to be part of a team win.
“We had a number of guys making some bog plays,” Chupp said. “That’s how it’s been all season for us: Different guys on different nights.”
St. Francis jumped out to a quick 14-8 lead in the opening five minutes, but Goshen responded with a 12-0 run for a 20-8 lead.
The Maple Leafs were plagued by early foul trouble, as big men Mike Betcher and Sean Day both picked up two fouls in the first 10 minutes.
6-4 senior forward Nate Manning came of the bench and did a nice job, with five points in as many minutes.
Leading by just four at 26-22, Goshen closed the half with an 11-4 run to take a nine-point lead into the locker room at intermission.
Goshen came out of the halftime break on a 17-8 run, pushing out to their biggest lead of the afternoon at 54-36.
But St. Francis was not ready to go quietly. The Cougars clawed their way back into the game with a 15-5 run to cut the Goshen lead to just eight at 59-51 with 7:51 left.
The Maple Leafs were able to weather the Cougar charge, however, and after St. Francis cut the Goshen lead to six at 65-59 with just under three minutes to play, it was Betcher with a strong move to the basket, foul and old-fashioned 3-point play to put the Maple Leafs up by nine again at 68-59.\Goshen was able to hold off St. Francis the rest of the way.
Freshman Kody Chandler led Goshen with 18 points. Matt Glick had 15 and freshman Tyler Hall added 13 off the bench.
Hall and teammate Casey Pratt shared one of the most difficult assignments Saturday afternoon: Guarding St. Francis guard Q Owens.
Owens had 22 points in 35 minutes to lead St. Francis, but was denied the kind of late breakout performance that could have gotten the Cougars back in the game.
Hall said he and his teammates are enjoying winning close games.
“I think we play better when the pressure is high,” Hall said.
The Maple Leafs are idle until Tuesday, Dec. 13 when they will host IU-East.
Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m., and it will be “Toys for Kids” night at Gunden Gymnasium. All fans who bring an unwrapped toy will be admitted free of charge.
LOOSE LEAFS: Goshen last defeated St. Francis Feb. 6, 2008...Six Mid-Central College Conference teams were represented in the latest NAIA Division II poll — four of those in the top 20 ... Betcher came into the contest third in the MCC in rebounding (8.3 rpg)... Goshen came into Saturday’s game second in the nation in opponent shooting percentage (.383).