The Case Western Reserve University men's basketball team saw a 12-point second half lead evaporate in the closing minutes on Saturday, as the Spartans fell on the road to Albion College, 74-69, in the final game of their non-conference schedule.
The loss ended a five game winning streak for the Spartans, who fell to 7-4 overall. Albion improved to 9-2 with the victory.
Junior guard Antonio Ionadi led the Spartans with 15 points on four-of-eight shooting overall and a three-of-six performance from behind the three-point line. First-year forward Cole Frilling added 14 points off the bench on a six-of-nine effort from the floor, while collecting four rebounds, two steals and a block. Senior forward Michael Hollis also scored in double figures on Saturday, totaling 10 points and leading the squad with six rebounds, while also dishing out three assists.
The Spartans' bench accounted for half of the team's points in the first half, as CWRU took a 38-32 lead over the Britons by halftime. The Spartans faced an early five point deficit, but evened the score at 11-11 on a layup by Holliswith 13:06 to play in the opening period. Three pointers by junior guard Ignas Masiulionis and sophomore guard Robert Faller knotted the score at 16-16 and 21-21 respectively, and Masiulionis' second three of the period with 8:04 left on the clock gave the Spartans a 24-21 lead. A 7-0 run by Albion put them back ahead by four points, but CWRU would respond again, taking a 30-29 lead on a pair of free throws by Masiulionis with 2:49 to play in the half. After a free throw by the Britons knotted the score, Ionadi knocked down back-to-back threes to give the Spartans a six-point lead, and the two teams exchanged baskets in the closing minute of the period to keep the gap at six points heading into the break.
Albion converted the first two baskets of the second half to cut the CWRU lead back to just two points with 18:34 to go in the game, 38-36. However, CWRU responded with a quick 8-0 run on a pair of threes by senior guard Sam Hansen and a layup by Frilling, expanding its lead to double figures by the 17:07 mark. The Spartans took a game-high 12-point lead, 56-44, on a layup by Frilling with 11:40 to play in the game, but the Britons chipped away at the lead over the next few minutes, pulling within three points, 60-57, with 5:51 to go. Sophomore forward Ryan Newton converted a key traditional three-point play on the Spartans' next possession to give the Spartans some breathing room, but Albion continued to pressure CWRU, pulling within a point on a three-pointer with 3:34 left on the clock.
Albion had an opportunity to tie the game with 1:51 remaining, but missed a pair of free throws to keep the Spartans' in front 67-66, and after being fouled on the rebound, Frilling converted a pair of free throws to expand CWRU's lead back to three. However, the Britons had a final response, scoring the final eight points of the game unanswered, including a jumper by Milton Barnes with 1:06 remaining to give his team a one-point lead, and a second jumper by Jamezell Davis with 31 seconds remaining to expand the lead to three points, 72-69. After a missed shot by the Spartans, a pair of free throws for Albion put the game out of reach for CWRU in the closing seconds of the game.
With their 2019-20 non-conference schedule now complete, the Spartans will turn their attention towards University Athletic Association play. Case Western Reserve will open its conference slate at home next Saturday, January 11 against Carnegie Mellon University. Tip-off at Horsburgh Gymnasium is scheduled for 4:00 p.m.