Despite trailing for most of the game, but rallying to lead by a point with five minutes to go, the Hiram College men’s basketball team could not hold on to beat Denison University and fell to the Big Red, 70-64, in a North Coast Athletic Conference game at Price Gymnasium.
Denison (8-13, 6-6 NCAC) began the game with a 6-0 scoring run, but Hiram (10-11, 4-8 NCAC) answered with a 9-2 run of its own that ended in a layup by senior guard Alan Sheppard (Wadsworth) to give the Terriers a slight 9-8 advantage at the 14:36 mark of the first half. The Terriers went on to lead by as many as three points in the period, including a 13-10 margin on a jumper by Sheppard with 13:03 left before halftime. The Big Red came back to even the score at 17-17 before going on a mini 5-0 run to grab the lead and never trailed the remainder of the half. Denison recorded its largest lead of the period of nine points, 36-27, with 32 seconds left. Hiram senior forward Justin Lonis (Mentor/Perrysburg) scored the final points of the period on a layup, but the Terriers still trailed 36-29 at the break.
Hiram looked to make a run early in the second half outscoring Denison, 8-3, in the first 2:28 to make it a one possession game, 39-37, with 17:32 left in the contest. Denison responded with a 6-0 run over the course of the next 5:35 to regain a more managable eight-point margin, 45-37, at the 11:57 mark. Trailing again by eight points just past the midway point of the half, Hiram made one final run outscoring Denison, 8-0, to take a one-point lead off of a three-pointer by junior guard Aaron Stefanov (Stow/Stow-Munroe Falls), 54-53, with 5:09 remaining. An ensuing 8-2 run by the Big Red swung momentum back over to Denison with a 64-56 lead at the 2:17 mark. Hiram cut the deficit to three points, 67-64, with just under a minute on the clock following a jumper by Stefanov, but that would be as close as Hiram would get as missed shot attempts and successful free-throws by Denison down the stretch clinched a 70-64 victory.
Denison went on to shoot 50.0 percent (28-of-55) from the floor and was led in scoring by Dimonde Hale with 21 points on seven-of-15 shooting (46.7 percent). He also grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds to complete the double-double. Robby Weingart was second in scoring with 12 points, followed by Alex Longi with 11 points. Rounding out the high scorers was Darius White with 10 points.
Hiram shot 37.3 percent (25-of-67) from the field and had two players score in double figures. Stefanov led the way with a game-high 23 points on eight-of-16 shooting (50.0 percent), including going five-of-eight (62.5 percent) from three-point range. Sheppard was the only other Terrier in double figures with 10 points to go along with a game-high five assists.
Hiram will travel to Meadville, Pa. for a NCAC game against Allegheny College on Wednesday, Feb. 6. The game will be part of a basketball doubleheader with the Terrier women’s team. The women will tip-off against the Gators at 6 p.m., followed by the men at 8 p.m.