The McPherson College men's basketball team weathered a career night by the NAIA's leading scorer, holding on to defeat Friends University, 91-89, on Wednesday night in Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) play at the Sport Center.
Leading by 11 points with just 56 seconds remaining, the Bulldogs (7-18, 4-13 KCAC) nearly saw their entire advantage evaporate. Over a span of about 40 seconds, the Falcons (13-11, 11-6 KCAC) used an 11-3 run capped by a Jordan Murdock 3-pointer to cut the lead to just three with 7.6 seconds remaining. Aaron Bachura (Wilsey, Kan., Council Grove HS) drained a pair of free throws on McPherson's ensuing trip down the court to effectively put the game out of reach, but Murdock made the final result look a little more interesting by hitting an off-balance 3-pointer with 0.2 seconds left on the clock.
McPherson grabbed an early 5-0 lead only to see Friends rally for 10 of the next 12 to take a 10-7 lead on a Jordan Murdock 3-pointer at the 13:24 mark. The Bulldogs answered with a 17-2 run of their own, paced by five points each from Bachura and Chamaje Barideaux (New Iberia, La., New Iberia Senior HS), and capped by a 3-pointer from the left wing by Barideaux to put McPherson up 24-12 with 8:53 to play in the half. Friends was held scoreless for nearly four minutes during the run.
The McPherson lead hovered between seven and 10 points for most of the rest of the half, although the Falcons were able to cut the lead to five at one point when Zion Fralin drained a three with just under three minutes left. Bachura immediately answered with a 3-pointer of his own followed by a basket by Louis Parker III (Midwest City, Okla., Midwest City HS) to restore double-digit lead. Atir Cherne and Bachura traded baskets inside the final minute of the half to leave McPherson with a 41-31 advantage at the break.
Fralin opened the second half with another 3-pointer, but the Bulldogs responded with six straight points to build the lead back to 13 points. The Falcons made a series of small runs throughout the second half to chip away at the McPherson lead. A 13-5 run brought Friends to within four at 74-70 with 4:07 left in the game, but Grant Munsen (Manhattan, Kan., Manhattan HS) scored five straight points to kickstart a 12-5 McPherson run that left the hosts with an 86-75 lead after Jeffrey Oxford (Claremore, Okla., Claremore HS) completed a 3-point play with 56 seconds remaining and setting the stage for the Falcons' furious last-minute charge.
Both teams put on a display from the field with McPherson finishing the game hitting at a 58.5 percent (31-of-53) clip from the field, setting a season-high in shooting percentage for the second straight outing. The Bulldogs were 16-of-25 (64.0 percent) in the second half alone. Friends shot 52.6 percent (20-of-38) from the field with eight 3-pointers to finish at 50.0 percent (33-of-66) overall.
Bachura led the Bulldogs with 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting with four 3-pointers. He also had three boards, three assists, a pair of blocks and a steal. Watts matched a career-high 21 points, going 7-of-8 from both the field and the line, while chipping in with five rebounds. Oxford added 13 points, while Munsen had 12 points, a team-high seven board, three assists and three blocks. Parker and Garrett Owen (Woodward, Okla., Woodward HS) each had seven points with Owen also contributing six assists.
Murdock - the Falcons' Mr. Everything - finished with a career-high 45 points on 15-of-19 shooting from the field. He was also 6-of-8 from 3-point range and 9-of-12 at the line while pulling down a game-high 13 rebounds and dishing out three assists. Fralin added 12 points, while Cherne had 11 points, three boards and three assists.
"We continue to get better," said head coach Tim Swartzendruber. "Tonight was a great win considering Friends had won five of its last six games. Our guys are playing for each other and trusting each other. I'm extremely proud of them."
After playing four of their last five games at home, the Bulldogs hit the road for their next two contests. First up is a trip to Ottawa, Kansas, on Saturday to face Ottawa University (9-13, 8-9 KCAC). Tipoff from Wilson Field House is slated for 5 p.m. Following that is a trip to York, Nebraska, on Wednesday, Feb. 7, to face York College (14-10, 11-6 KCAC).