MARION, Ind. – Mount Vernon Nazarene University men’s basketball led for the majority of the contest against No. 4 Indiana Wesleyan, as the Cougars resisted a late push from the Wildcats to complete the upset, 84-79.
MVNU displayed composure and confidence throughout the game on the road against one of the nation’s best, improving to 11-6 overall and 3-2 in the competitive Crossroads League.
Prior to Wednesday’s victory, the Cougars had only defeated Indiana Wesleyan on their home floor once in program history, dating back to November 30, 1991. Additionally with the win, the Cougars picked up their second win of the season over an NAIA Division II Top-25 opponent, also defeating No. 12 Taylor 90-69 on December 2.
Wednesday’s victory over Indiana Wesleyan (12-5, 3-2 CL) was also déjà vu from last season’s matchup on January 3, 2017, when MVNU bested the Wildcats 92-80 in Ariel Arena, the team’s most recent victory over an NAIA Division II opponent ranked in the top-5 of the standings. Indiana Wesleyan was ranked No. 3 on that date just one year ago.
In this matchup, MVNU was able to establish a lead as large as 13 on two separate occasions, often outhustling the Wildcats and executing its game plan on both ends of the floor. The
Wildcats however made a push to trim the Cougar lead to 73-71 with just 4:23 to play, but MVNU responded with tight defense and timely baskets to preserve the win.
A 6-2 spurt for MVNU pushed its lead to 79-73 capped by a two-pointer from 7’0” center Jordi Mas with 2:10 on the clock, and the Cougars would never look back. Mas had his best game of the season since returning from injury, dueling with a fellow 6’10” Evan Maxwell of Indiana Wesleyan in the paint. Mas played just 19 minutes, but produced a season-high 19 points to go along with a team-high six rebounds to aid the Cougar cause, while Maxwell led the Wildcats with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
As he has in many other recent outings, sophomore point guard Jacob Paul got off to a fast start and provided a spark for the Cougars in the early going. Paul’s explosive first step allowed him to get into the paint seemingly whenever he wanted, and he continued to shoot well from the perimeter on his way to 17 points with four rebounds and three assists.
Brett Vipperman played his way to 13 points on an efficient 5-of-6 shooting from the floor, while Jeremiah Roberts produced double-figure scoring for the fifth consecutive game with 12 points. Jevon Kox added eight points and five assists off the bench, while Austin Jones came in as a reserve as well to contribute eight points and four rebounds.
The Wildcats came into the game averaging 88.9 points per game to rank 16th in the NAIA Division II for that category, but the Cougars held them well below that mark in the impressive result on the road.
“I’m so happy for our men,” said Head Coach Jared Ronai.
“They were locked in defensively for 40 minutes, and really did a great job making things difficult for some of their key players. It was a collective effort from all 14 players. We are going to enjoy this one for tonight and then focus on getting better tomorrow.”
MVNU (11-6, 3-2 CL) joined Indiana Wesleyan and No. 16 Spring Arbor with a 3-2 mark for third place in the Crossroads League standings. The remainder of its schedule will come against Crossroads League foes, with the next matchup coming against another top-5 opponent in league leader and No. 2 Saint Francis (14-2, 4-0 CL) on Saturday, January 6 in Ariel Arena. Tip-off for that game is set for 3 p.m.