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No. 2 Indiana Wesleyan Wins Battle of Top 10 Teams

November 27, 2013
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Story by Kyle Schmidt, Indiana Wesleyan

MARION, Ind. -- The Crossroads League started tonight (Nov. 26) with a bang as two top-10 programs did battle as No. 2 Indiana Wesleyan men’s basketball came out on top 88-82 over No. 9 Bethel (Ind.) in Luckey Arena.

RJ Mahurin got his first taste of Bethel tonight with a game-high 33 points. He was 12-of-18 shooting and 7-of-9 from 3-point range. The 33 points is the most by a Wildcat since Zach Coverstone also scored 33 points in a double overtime victory against Dallas Baptist (Texas) on March 19, 2008 in the NCCAA National Tournament Semifinals.

“They finally started coming,” Mahurin said about his seven 3-pointers. “I got a lot more shots up this week and it just felt good tonight. I talked to my dad and he said just let it go and stop thinking about it. And they just started to fall and it was pretty big because (Bethel) kept hitting their shots.”
In all, Indiana Wesleyan (8-1, 1-0 CL) was lights out from deep as they connected on 15-of-33 attempts (45.5-percent), falling one shy of the team record.

“That wasn’t our game plan coming in but sometimes you got to take what the defense gives you,” said Indiana Wesleyan head coach Greg Tonagel. “RJ had the hot hand and early on DJ had the hot hand. Even though we shot a lot of 3’s they were open and we had the right guys shooting them.”

DJ Bettinger nailed three 3-pointers for nine points, all coming in the first half. Jordan Weidner also hit three from beyond the arc and Zac Vandewater drilled a pair, including a huge one with 1:30 to play to put Indiana Wesleyan up 84-80.

“Vandewater stepped up and he continues to step up every single game,” continued Tonagel. “I don’t think people realize he plays such hard defense and that is his focus but for him to be able to switch gears to offense is hard to do.”

After the Vandewater 3, Bethel responded with a Ryan Benner second chance bucket to narrow the score to 84-82 with 44 seconds on the clock.

Indiana Wesleyan would run the clock down to under 15 seconds when Weidner made a highlight reel bucket. As he drove fiercely into the lane towards the basket, he did a 360 in the air and put the ball off the glass and into the goal with his left hand. That put IWU ahead 86-82 with 12 seconds to go.

“Jordan Weidner finished it off tonight,” stated Tonagel. “What a play left handed in the lane. It sealed the game.”

Zach Miller launched a 3-pointer with eight seconds left and Landon Booker pulled down the offensive rebound for Bethel. But his put back shot was off and Vandewater hauled in the rebound. He was fouled with three seconds to play and hit both free throws for the 88-82 victory.

“It wasn’t only me and we had a lot of guys step up tonight,” said Mahurin. “Everybody was aggressive. We wanted to put a full 40 minutes together and we were closer to that tonight.”

Indiana Wesleyan led by as many as 11 points early in the second half before Bethel came back with a 17-6 run to tie the score at 65 and 11 minutes to play. Indiana Wesleyan would not surrender the lead but Bethel kept the game within reach all the way until the end.

“We weathered their storm,” added Mahurin. “They kept coming and coming. They are a great team. This is my first experience against them. They are a great coached team with great players and great shooters.”

Both teams shot extremely well on Tuesday. Indiana Wesleyan ended the game at 54.1-percent (33 of 61) from the field and 45.5-percent (15 of 33) from deep. Bethel matched IWU with a 53.4-percent (31 of 58) shooting effort and 46.7-percent (7 of 15) from 3-point range.

Weidner scored 19 points, Vandewater earned 11, and Lane Mahurin added 10 points off the bench on 5-of-6 shooting.

Matt Schauss led Bethel with 22 points and Benner contributed 17.

Indiana Wesleyan will take off the Thanksgiving holiday and return to action next Tuesday night at No. 15 Grace (Ind.) in Winona Lake, Indiana. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.