BLUFFTON, OHIO – Manchester University head coach Brad Nadborne and his staff were obviously happy to see the return of sophomore forward Brady Dolezal (Tipton, Ind.) Wednesday, Jan. 22.
However, not even they or his Spartan teammates knew what he had in store. In his first game for the Black and Gold since Dec. 14, Dolezal picked up right where left off and then some. The sophomore scorched the nets at Bluffton University's Sommer Center to the tune of the program's second 30-point effort of the season to lead the way in a thrilling 68-67 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference win.
"We thought he might be a little rusty," Nadborne said. "Obviously, he proved that wrong. He played a lot of minutes, but we kept checking on him, and he said he was okay. It was huge what he did tonight."
Dolezal was efficient from the field in all three areas. He was eight-of-nine from the field, two for three from beyond the arc and canned 12 of 14 free throw attempts to compile his 30-point outing. His biggest stretch, though, occurred in the waning moments.
With MU (3-13 overall, 2-7 HCAC) trailing 65-63 in the final minute, Dolezal got a traditional three-point play for a 66-65 lead. Bluffton (6-10 overall, 2-7 HCAC) responded on its ensuing possession with a jumper from Billy Taflinger to hold a 67-66 lead. Enter the Tipton native one more time.
"We elected not to take a timeout after (Bluffton) scored," Nadborne said. "We managed to get the ball into Brady's hands where he sliced to the basket, pulled up for a six-foot floater and nailed it." Bluffton did get a long look from half-court at the buzzer, but it fell off.
"The win was great," Nadborne said. "We had a game plan and stuck with it. Bluffton didn't make it easy, as even though their posts were being held down by our inside defense, they were hitting their perimeter shots. We were trailing by 12 with 6:30 left and stuck to the plan. Our offense remained pretty good, and we showed a ton of poise. We were very focused at the end."
Dolezal wasn't alone in his efforts. Junior forward Jon Thompson (Rushville, Ind.) tallied 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds to share the team lead with freshman guard Blake Brouwer (Elkhart, Ind.). Sophomore forward Matt Brown (Hobart, Ind.) came off the bench for a strong eight-point evening, and junior guard Grant Newlin (Muncie, Ind.) dished out four assists.
Manchester University returns to Stauffer-Wolfe Arena Saturday, Jan. 25. The 3 p.m. tipoff against Earlham College not only begins the second half of the HCAC campaign but also opens a five-game homestand.
"Our guys feel like we can get something put together," Nadborne said. "We have some key people healthy now and a big home stretch."
NOTES: Dolezal also added a team-best three steals to his 30-point night. His successive run of double-figure scoring games improved to four straight … His 12 made free throws were the most in a game for a Spartan player since former standout Jordan Moss hit 13 against MacMurray in November 2011 … Dolezal and Thompson's twin 30-point games match the efforts of former MU players Eric Berger (30) and Jamaal Wade (31) in the 2004-05 season.