By Nicholas Petrone, Central Methodist (Mo.) Sports Information Director
FAYETTE, Mo. - Central Methodist used a season-high 26 made free throws and Elliott Black's 27 points to upend No. 17 MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) 83-73 on Saturday in Heart of America Athletic Conference men's basketball action inside Puckett Fieldhouse.
Black's 27 points are his second highest of the season, one shy of his 28-point performance against Culver-Stockton (Mo.) on Jan. 17. The Saint Louis native was 9-of-14 from the field on Saturday and 9-of-10 from the free throw line to go along with seven rebounds, one assist and one block.
With the win, the Eagles (14-10, 7-5 HAAC) snap a three-game losing streak to the Pioneers (17-7, 9-3 HAAC). Central Methodist improves to 2-4 against Top 25 competition this season.
Despite the final outcome, it was MidAmerica Nazarene that started the game strong, building an 11-4 lead through the first 12 minutes following a bucket in the paint by Conner Langrehr. Central Methodist answered with a quick 6-0 run to cut the deficit to one point before the Pioneers stretched their advantage to 25-16 with 5:28 to go following two Rustin Dowd free throws.
The Eagles responded with a 14-6 run to close the half, which was started by a Melvin Tillman running layup with under five minutes to play. Michael Banks, Jr. canned a trey from the corner to give Central Methodist its first lead, 30-29, of the game, but a Jacob French offensive rebound and putback kept the visitors ahead by one at halftime.
Darian Davis scored the first five points of the second half for the Eagles, but it was Black who went off, scoring 16 in the final 20 minutes. Trailing 41-40, the Green and Black rattled off eight straight points, capped by a Banks, Jr. three at the 13:03 mark.
Central Methodist maintained its second-half advantage, eventually stretching the difference to as many as nine points, 70-61, following a Black fade-away in the lane. The Pioneers trailed by nine points with 22 seconds to play, but Dowd did his best to keep his team in the game, making one free throw before nailing a trey from the corner. However, the Eagles converted five straight free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
Banks, Jr. tallied 15 points on a season-high five made three-pointers. Melvin Tillman and Eric Franklin added 11 and nine points, respectively. Davis and Alex Barner finished with seven apiece.
Dowd led all scorers with 28 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field, including 3-of-6 from behind the arc. He was 7-of-9 from the charity stripe. French and Luke Thomas added 15 and 12 points, respectively.
The Eagles shot 51 percent (25-of-49) from the field, 46.7 percent (7-of-15) from behind the arc, and 89.7 percent (26-of-29) from the free throw line.
The Pioneers hit 54.5 percent (30-of-55) from the floor but were held to only 27.3 percent (3-of-11) from distance.
Central Methodist hosts Graceland (Iowa) on Thursday, Feb. 7. Tip-off for Student Organization Night inside Puckett Fieldhouse is set for 7:30 p.m. CT.
For more information about Central Methodist University athletics, visit cmueagles.com. Follow CMU athletics on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cmathletics and on Twitter twitter.com/cmueagles.