Franklin side-steps Spartans

Franklin side-steps Spartans

FRANKLIN, IND. – A big second half rally by Manchester University wasn't quite enough to earn a Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference road win Wednesday, Jan. 28.

The Spartans, battling back from a 14-point deficit late in the first half, overtook the host Franklin College Grizzlies to lead in the closing stages of the second half. However, FC had just enough left and used some clutch free throw shooting to hold on for a 79-74 victory.

Sophomore guard Chase Casteel (Monrovia, Ind.) and junior forward Matt Brown (Hobart, Ind.) continued their recent surges to lead the Spartans (5-13 overall, 4-7 HCAC). Casteel, producing his seventh straight double-digit contest, dropped in 26 points, due in large part to six three-point buckets. Brown, earning his ninth straight double-figure total, wasn't far behind with 21 points to go with a team-high eight rebounds.

The Black and Gold jumped out to a 14-9 lead early in the first half. FC (5-13 overall, 4-7 HCAC) overcame the deficit and rolled out to a 43-29 cushion in the late stages of the opening frame. MU battled back during the second 20-minute span and led 63-61 after Brown buried a triple with 6:41 left. As they did throughout the evening, the Grizzlies countered, going on a 9-0 stretch, and didn't trail the rest of the way. The Spartans closed to within 74-72 with 1:40 to go but couldn't close the gap any further, as sophomore guard Aaron Mann, wrapping up a 10-for-10 night at line, hit a pair of free throws, and junior guard Trae Washington hit one of two chances.

MU returns home to Stauffer-Wolfe Arena Saturday, Jan. 31. Transylvania University of Kentucky, joining Hanover and Rose-Hulman in a tie for fourth and leading the Spartans, Bluffton and Franklin by two games for the final conference tournament berths, comes to North Manchester for a 3 p.m. tip-off.

NOTES: Brown's points-per-game average continued to climb in the wake of his performance. At 17.5, he remains fourth on the conference scoring charts … Casteel's points-per-game average also continues to swell. He goes into the weekend averaging nine per contest, up almost six (3.4-9) from where his current roll began … Other top numbers Wednesday belonged to Brown (two steals); junior guard Brady Dolezal (Tipton, Ind.) (six assists); and sophomore guard Blake Brouwer (Elkhart, Ind.) (one blocked shot).