Despite a double-double from sophomore forward Eric Black and a game-high 20 points from senior guard Matt Clark, the Case Western Reserve University men's basketball team fell just short against Denison University on Tuesday night, falling 80-79 to the Big Red at Horsburgh Gymnasium.
The loss dropped the Spartans to 4-2 overall on the season, while Denison improved to 3-1.
Eric Black scored 18 points and collected a career-high 12 rebounds for the third double-double of his career, and his first of the season. Meanwhile, Clark recorded his second-straight game of 20 or more points, while also leading the team in scoring for the second time this year. 14 of Clark's 20 points came during the second half.
The Spartans took the early advantage on Tuesday, building a 10-point lead, 21-11, on a layup and one by Alvarez with 11:45 to play in the first. The Big Red cut the lead down to just three with 7:46 remaining, but a Jimmy Holman three-pointer pushed the CWRU to 28-22. Denison would eventually pull within a point, 35-34 with 2:48 remaining in the half, but the Spartans closed the period on a 6-2 run to take a 41-36 lead into the locker room.
Eric Black finished the first half leading all Spartans with nine points and five rebounds, while Holman and Alvarez each scored eight through the first 20 minutes of play.
CWRU came out on fire in the second half, with Eric Black drawing a foul on a dunk and converting the traditional three-point play, followed by a steal by David Black and a dunk in transition. On the next Big Red possession, Eric Black registered a steal and drew a foul, converting one-of-two free throws to give the Spartans their largest lead of the game, 47-36, with 19:00 to play.
Denison would not go away, cutting the Spartans lead back to two, 54-52, with 13:35 remaining, but a pair of threes by Zucker with a Clark layup in between helped put the lead back at eight for CWRU. However, the Big Red went on an 8-0 run to tie the game at 62 apiece with 10:01 to play, and would take its first lead, 67-64, on a three-point play by Devon Pitts with 8:00 left.
The Spartans would trail by as many as five, 75-70, with 5:07 left, but CWRU scored five-straight to tie the game with 3:17 on the clock. After exchanging baskets, Denison committed a turnover, with Clark stealing the ball, drawing a foul, and converting both free throws to give the Spartans the lead back, 79-77 at the 2:40 mark, but a pair of free throws by Matthew Bauer tied the game back at 79-79 with 2:09 left.
The score remained knotted at 79 until a foul by Spencer Boyd sent David Meurer to the line with 13.5 seconds left. Meurer missed the first free throw shot, but converted the second, to give Denison an 80-79 lead. The Spartans would have a final opportunity to win the game, but an Eric Black jumper with time running out missed the target to end the game.
Jett Speelman led the Big Red with 15 points on Tuesday, while Matthew Bauer added on 14 and nine rebounds.
Case Western Reserve will be back in action on Saturday, December 5th, hosting Adrian College at 5:00 p.m. in its final game before winter break.