WESTERVILLE, Ohio - The Trine University men's basketball team fell in the championship game of the Smokey Ballenger Classic hosted by Otterbein College, 52-44 to the Milwaukee School of Engineering. The Thunder had advanced to the title game by defeating Penn St.-Behrend the night before 63-55. The Thunder begin their conference schedule with a 7-4 record.
In the opening game, Trine took a seven point lead through the first 10 minutes 11-4, but offense was hard to come by for both sides. The two sides battled it out through the rest of the opening half as the Lions held a 25-24 advantage at the half.
The Thunder began the second half on a 15-7 run to take their largest lead of the game at nine. Penn St.-Behrend rebounded quickly out-scoring the Thunder 10-1 to tie the game at 41 all. After once again trading baskets and the score tied at 48, the Thunder began to pull away in the final 7 minutes.
The championship game would also be a low-scoring affair as the Thunder were held to a season-low in points, but also allowed the fewest points of the season.
Trine held the lead for most of the first half as they had their biggest led at 18-12 with 8:31 remaining. The Raiders would score the next 10 points to take just their second lead of the half. For the second straight game though, the Thunder would again trail 25-24 at intermission.
The second half was a true battle as neither team was able to pull away by more than four points until the final minute. In the second half alone there were six lead changes and five tie scores. Trine was only able to convert on one field goal in the final 3:40, and were forced to foul MSOE and send them to the line. The Raiders would convert on 9-of-10 free throws in the final 1:43 to seal the game.
For the night the two teams shot nearly identical numbers from the floor, both made 17 field goals and two 3-pointers. But the difference came at the free throw line where the Thunder made just 8-of-13 compared to MSOE converting 16-of-22.
Seniors Ian Jackson (Indianapolis, Ind./Perry Meridian) and Scott Rogers (Waterford, Mich./Kettering) were named to the All-Tournament Team. Jackson finished the tournament leading the Thunder with 24 points and seven assists while also grabbing six rebounds. Rogers led the Thunder with 13 rebounds, five steals and four blocks while scoring 14 points.
A trio of freshmen in Nick Tatu (Clarkston, Mich./Clarkston), Jared Holmquist (Reed City, Mich./Reed City) and Tarvis Malone (Toledo, Ohio/St. Johns Jesuit) helped the Thunder with 18, 17 and 16 points respectively for the two games. Holmquist also added nine boards and Malone made seven assists.
Trine will open conference play when they host Kalamazoo on January 3 for a 7:30 p.m. game.