LEXINGTON, KY. – Manchester University resumed an upward trend to wind up its 2015-16 regular season Saturday, Feb. 17.
The Spartans, winners of three of their last four and two in a row on the road, clinched the program's first Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference postseason tournament bid since 2011, posting 56 second half points during a 97-80 victory over at Transylvania University's Clive Beck Center.
A balanced scoring attack, aided by a meteoric effort from the field overall (58.5 percent) and better than 95 percent from the charity stripe, headlined the key conference win. Senior guard Brady Dolezal (Tipton, Ind.) was at the top of the list, tallying 24 points as part of a double-double which featured 10 rebounds and four assists. Junior guard Chase Casteel (Monrovia, Ind.) and sophomore guard Brody Kirby (Frankfort, Ind.) ended with 13 points apiece, while freshman guard Adrian Johnson (Indianapolis, Ind.), junior guard Blake Brouwer (Elkhart, Ind.) and senior forward Matt Brown (Hobart, Ind.) each finished with 12 points.
MU had to overcome a fast start by the host Pioneers (10-15, 9-9), trailing 17-14 at the halfway point of the opening frame. A 21-7 roll, from that point, gave the Black and Gold a lead they wouldn't relinquish. TU closed to within six (46-40) during the early stages of the second 20 minutes, but the red-hot shooting Spartans were up to the task, answering with a 13-3 run and not looking back.
"I think it's great," Coach Gerad Good said of the win and icing a postseason tourney bid. "I'll never forget what everybody on the team has done to get us to this point.
"All of the players have been a part of it and can share in this success," he added. "This team has shown a willingness to keep playing and always battling. They've been so resilient. The one thing we kept preaching this week was that there wasn't a situation they haven't seen due to playing in a lot of different type of games. Everyone knew what was on the line, as from day one, this group wanted to get to the tournament. It was important to them to do anything they could to get there, and they weren't afraid of anything down the stretch to do so."
MU takes the number five seed into next week's HCAC tourney. They face off against fourth-seeded Rose-Hulman at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26, at Defiance College's Karl H. Weaner Center in one of two quarterfinal round clashes.
NOTES: Brown's second double-figure scoring outing of the week ended a period in which he averaged 23 points, five rebounds, an assist and a steal per contest and saw his season points average climb one (10.9-11.9) … Dolezal gathered his second double-double of the season … Kirby, who also recorded a pair of double-digit point efforts during the week, had his scoring average rise five-tenths (5.9-6.4) … The program's 10th league win of the year was its most since the 2010-11 campaign.