STERLING — Thomas Butler scored a game-high 22 points to lead McPherson College to a 80-61 victory over Sterling College in Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference men's basketball play Saturday night at the Gleason Center.
Butler went 10-of-22 from the field with a 3-pointer and pulled down seven rebounds for the Bulldogs (11-13, 5-11 KCAC), winners of four of their last five.
McPherson scored the game's first five points on a basket by Careino Gurley and a 3-pointer by Aaron Bachura, but Sterling struck back with a 13-3 run to go in front by five with 14:28 to go in the first half. The Warrior rally was short-lived, though, as the Bulldogs responded with another hoop by Gurley and a trey by Garrett Owen to knot the score at 13. The teams traded baskets to move the score to 20-20, with McPherson tying the game on a basket by Bachura. That hoop sparked an 8-0 Bulldog run, giving the visitors a 26-20 lead with 7:27 remaining before the break.
Sterling chipped away at the lead over the next 4:25, eventually retaking a 33-32 lead on a Fayola Oyatayo basket. On its next trip down the floor, however, McPherson took the lead back on a hoop by Chris Crook. Gurley added another basket to put the Bulldogs up 36-33. That score would hold over the final 1:40 as the teams combined to miss their last seven shots.
The Bulldogs stretched the lead to six early in the second half on a 3-pointer by DeAndre Henson only to see the Warriors use an 11-5 run to erase the lead and tie the game at 46 on a 3-pointer by Raybon Riden at the 15:00 mark. On its next possession, McPherson regained the lead on a basket by Grant Raleigh, kicking off a string of 11 straight points. The stretch was part of a larger 27-7 run over a span of 6:46 that pushed the Bulldog advantage to 20 points. Butler (11) and Crook (7) accounted for 18 of McPherson's 27 points.
The Warriors cut the lead to 13 with seven straight points, but the Bulldogs matched the rally with a 7-0 run of their own. Sterling added a free throw late to set the final margin.
In addition to Butler, three other McPherson players found their way into double-digits in the scoring column. Henson finished with 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting with four 3-pointers and also pulled down seven rebounds. Bachura matched Henson with 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting and three 3-pointers. He also had three steals and two assists. Crook was the fourth Bulldog in double-figures with 11 points.
Oyatayo and Jake Jaderston both scored 12 points to lead Sterling, while Josiah Ray chipped in with 10 points. All of Jaderston's points came from behind the arc. Ray added eight points and four assists with Oyatayo matching Ray in the assists column while pulling down five rebounds.
McPherson shot 48.5 percent (33-of-68) from the field overall, bolstered by a 58.1-percent (18-of-31) effort in the second half. The Bulldogs also connected on 10 of 25 3-pointers and were 4-of-5 at the free throw line. Sterling shot 44.4 percent (24-of-54) from the field and hit eight of 25 3-pointers. The Warriors also made five of seven free throws in the second half after not registering an attempt in the first half.
McPherson also held a 35-32 edge on the glass and had 11 steals on 15 Sterling turnovers. The Bulldogs committed just seven turnovers.
"It was a great team effort tonight," said head coach Tim Swartzendruber. "I thought our full court pressure created some turnovers and we finished better in the second half. We are playing our best basketball of the season and we want that to continue."
McPherson has a tough pair of games in the upcoming week. First is a visit from No. 21 Tabor College on Thursday, Feb. 2. That game is followed by a trip to Wichita to face Friends University on Saturday. Tipoff for the Tabor game is 8 p.m., while the Friends game tips off at 7 p.m. The Bulldogs came out on the losing end of the earlier meetings with both schools, falling at Tabor, 82-75, on Dec. 8 and at home against Friends, 92-82, on Dec. 10.