MOUNT VERNON — Mount Vernon Nazarene University men’s basketball swept the season series with another top-25 team on Tuesday, downing No. 6 Indiana Wesleyan for the first time ever in a series, 83-81.
After beating IWU on its home floor 84-79 on Jan. 3, the Cougars (17-12, 9-8 CL) earned their sixth win over an NAIA Top-25 opponent this season. The win also delayed IWU’s opportunity to clinch at least a share of the Crossroads League regular season title. MVNU has defeated IWU in three of their last four meetings.
The visitors held a 47-40 advantage at the break. MVNU shot the ball at a 51.6-percent clip, while the Wildcats were even better at 53.1 percent. The teams also combined to hit 11 3-pointers, five from IWU and six from MVNU.
IWU surge to a double-digit lead by scoring the first five points of the second half to go up, 52-40. MVNU, however, rattled off 14 unanswered points over a span of a little less than three minutes to seize a 54-52 edge. Sophomore point guard Jacob Paul scored the last eight points for the Cougars.
Trailing 72-70, MVNU went on a 5-0 spurt to go ahead, 75-72, with 5:24 on the clock, but IWU star Kyle Mangas sank a 3-pointer to tie it all up. The Cougars’ lone senior, Joe Schmitz, responded on the next time down the court, converting a three-point play to put the Cougars on top, 78-75. Junior center Jordi Mas extended the MVNU lead to 81-76, but Mangas drew IWU back to even with five unanswered points, capped off by another deep 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1:02 remaining. After Mas hit another shot late to put the Cougars ahead 83-81, Okafor had a good look for a 3-pointer go astray.
Paul led MVNU with 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting and a career-high five 3-pointers. Knox added 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting and a team-high six assists.
Mas’ game winner gave him 13 points, six rebounds and four assists; and Schmitz finished with 11 points, three rebounds and two assists.
MVNU benefitted from its quality care of the ball, as it had only eight turnovers in the game, its second-lowest total of the season. They shot 55 percent from the floor with nine 3-pointers.
Schmitz and four-year student assistant Will Smith were honored in pre-game Senior Night festivities.
MVNU will play its last regular-season Crossroads League game on the road at Huntington (12-17, 8-9 CL) this Saturday at 3 p.m. The Cougars are tied for fourth place in the league standings with Marian.