For the second time this season, the Hiram College men's basketball team played to a one-score decision against Denison University. Once again, the Terriers prevailed, earning a 91-89 victory over the Big Red on Wednesday evening.
In just the sixth game of the young season, Terrier sophomore Jalen Kirksey lifted Hiram to a one-point victory over the Big Red (81-80), back on December fifth, as he went coast-to-coast for a layup that beat the buzzer in Granville.
Tonight, with the two sides knotted at 89, Kirksey once again found the ball in his hands. The sophomore from Massillon drove to the hoop and got rewarded with a trip to the foul line for his troubles. Kirksey calmly knocked down both efforts from the charity stripe, giving the Terriers a 91-89 lead with one possession to play.
Denison, who had knocked down over 50% from beyond the arc in the opening half, and 44% for the game, found it difficult to get an open look from distance as they played for the win. Hiram's defense locked down for the final ten seconds, forcing a contested outside look which fell short, giving the Terriers the win.
Unlike the December 5th meeting, which saw the Terriers run out to a big lead before Denison came storming back in the second half, the two sides played a tightly-contested matchup. The game saw 13 ties and 15 lead changes throughout the contest. Neither team led by double digits, and the largest lead was just seven (Denison lead 15-8 early in the contest).
The Big Red used the three-point shot to give themselves a boost in the opening half. Denison knocked down 10 three-point baskets in the opening 20 minutes, hitting 2/3 of their buckets from distance. Through their first 30 points of the night, 21 came from beyond the arc.
Hiram continued to battle down low and make their presence known, both in the passing lanes, and the offensive glass, to keep themselves within striking distance. The Terriers knocked down three threes of their own, from Oliver Clingain, Christian Crespo and Kirksey, while also throwing down a trio of dunks, including a pair by Antonio McQueen, and another by Marcel Rice.
Trailing by six with 8:11 to play in the half, the Terriers relied on their defense to steal back the lead. Following a jumper by Rice, Hiram earned three-straight fast-break buckets thanks to their stingy defense.
Kirksey stole a pair, getting a layup on one finish before Brodgie Gordon finished the next fast-break attempt. Gordon then picked Denison's pocket, giving to Sherman Dean III, who gave the Terriers back the advantage, 32-30, with 6:38 to play.
Dean would knock down his only triple of the evening to give Hiram a 42-38 advantage with 3:11 to play, and the Terriers would cling to a two-point lead at the break (47-45).
The second half was played just as tightly as the first with neither side holding more than a five-point lead. Hiram matched their largest advantage of the contest as McQueen posted six-straight points for the Terriers to give the hosts a 63-58 lead.
Denison would lead briefly at the 11:34 mark with a bucket from Freeman Brou, but a timely three-pointer by Tyler McMillion on Hiram's next possession would give the lead back to the Terriers.
The lead would remain with Hiram until the 2:09 mark when Jake Livingston tipped-in a missed three to give the Big Red a two-point advantage.
McQueen helped Hiram regain the lead in the final minute, knocking down a pair of clutch free throws before throwing down his fifth dunk of the night to give the Terriers an 89-87 lead with 54 seconds to play.
McQueen played his best game as a Terrier to date, scoring 26 points on 10-of-13 shooting, and knocking down 6-of-8 from the charity stripe. He helped Hiram hold a 46-34 advantage in the paint, and controlled the glass with seven offensive boards.
Denison would knot the game with 43 seconds to play, before Kirksey tallied the final points of the game to give Hiram the win.
Overall, the Terriers held a +6 advantage on the boards, led by McQueen's first double-double. Three other Hiram players finished with double digits and each player that saw the floor finished with at least six points.
Kirksey did it all for Hiram, totaling 14 points while grabbing eight rebounds, dishing out six assists, and adding three steals.
Rice produced 13 points and seven rebounds in 21 minutes, while Oliver Clingain tallied 10 in his return to a starting role. Crespo tallied eight while Gordon and Dean added seven, each, and McMillion finished with six.
Hiram, who went back over the .500 mark (6-5) with a victory tonight, will get back to NCAC on Saturday afternoon, as they travel to Delaware, Ohio to take on Ohio Wesleyan. The tilt with the Bishops is slated for 3 p.m.