In a contest that featured 12 lead changes and five ties, the Case Western Reserve University men's basketball fell just short, dropping a 74-69 decision to Denison University in the final game of a season-opening three-game home stand for the Spartans on Tuesday night.
The loss dropped the Spartans to 0-3 on the season, while Denison improved to 3-1.
Freshman guard Ignas Masiulionis led the team with 18 points, connecting on seven-of-15 shots overall and four-of-10 attempts from beyond the arc. Senior forward T.J. Duckett finished the game with 13 points and seven rebounds for the Spartans, while freshman guard Antonio Ionadi added 10 points, and sophomore forward Michael Hollis chipped in a team-leading eight assists with six rebounds.
Tuesday night's game was played at a decidedly different pace than CWRU's first two contests of the year, with the team failing to break 100 points for the first time this season. The Spartans and the Big Red played close for the majority of the first half, with the lead changing hands nine times during the first 20 minutes. CWRU took its largest lead of the period with 8:17 remaining, after back-to-back threes by Masiulionis put the team ahead 22-15. The Spartans would maintain a lead for the majority of the rest of the half, before a block led to a breakaway basket by Conor Felton in the final second, giving Denison a 27-26 advantage at halftime.
Eight different players scored for the Spartans for a well-rounded offensive attack in the first half of the game, with five players knocking down at least one of the team's six three pointers made in the period.
Denison surged to a quick 34-28 lead with 17:42 on the clock in the second half, before the Spartans launched on a 13-2 run, capped off by a three-pointer by sophomore guard Monty Khela, to take a five point lead, 41-36 with 13:57 to play. Denison would knot the score again at 46-46 with 11:24 to play, but a 10-2 run gave the Spartans their biggest lead of the night, 56-48, with 8:02 remaining in the contest, after a three pointer by Ionadi. However, the Big Red would get hot, scoring the next 15 points in the contest unanswered, and would not trail again in the game.
Masiulionis helped keep the Spartans in the game, scoring six-straight points on three layups to trim the lead down to a point, 63-62, with 2:42 to play, and knocking down a three with 15 seconds remaining to make it a one-possession game again. But it would not be enough for CWRU, as the Big Red converted four free throw attempts in the final 20 seconds to put the game out of reach.
CWRU shot 44.6% (25-of-56) from the field in the game, including 48.5% in the second half alone. Ten different players scored at least two points for the Spartans in the game.
Denison's Maxwell Siwik came off the bench to lead the team with 18 points, while Matt Doyle added 11 in the game.
The Spartans will be on the road this weekend, continuing their season at the Tip-Off Classic Tournament in Cincinnati, Ohio. Case Western Reserve will open play at the tournament against host Mount Saint Joseph University on Saturday, November 25th at 7:00 p.m.