Men's Basketball Pulls Away Late for 82-75 Victory over Washington and Lee at Lon Varnell Classic

Men's Basketball Pulls Away Late for 82-75 Victory over Washington and Lee at Lon Varnell Classic

The Oglethorpe men's basketball team earned a split at the Lon Varnell Classic in Sewanee, Tennessee, this weekend, pulling away in the final two minutes to defeat the Washington and Lee Generals 82-75 on Sunday at Juhan Gymnasium. The victory improved the Stormy Petrels to 2-1 on the season headed into Thanksgiving.

Washington and Lee came back from 12 points down early in the second half to take a 60-59 lead with 9:20 remaining in the contest. The Petrels quickly responded with a three-pointer from senior guard Connor Smith, taking the lead back at 62-60. The Generals came back with a three-pointer of their own to edge back ahead, 63-62, with 8:04 on the clock, but Smith hit another three on the next trip down to give the Petrels the lead back, 65-63. Oglethorpe would never trail again, though Washington and Lee did not go down quietly.

The Petrels went up by four points with a basket from junior forward Will Perry, but the Generals responded with another three-pointer, putting them behind by a single point with seven minutes remaining. Perry pushed the lead back to three with another basket at the 6:18 mark, and sophomore guard Justin Hughes gave them some breathing room with a shot from distance at the 5:58 mark, making the score 72-66. The teams traded baskets over the next couple minutes, but a General three-pointer brought them back to within a point again, 74-73, with just 2:44 remaining.

Oglethorpe got consecutive three-pointers over a minute stretch, though, giving them command of the game. Hughes hit a bomb to put the Petrels back up by four points, 77-73, with 1:30 left, and freshman forward Will Koch followed with one of his own at the 45-second mark, putting his team up 80-73. The Generals got a basket and got the ball back with 11 seconds left, but they were unable to convert on a pair of free throws. Perry grabbed the rebound and passed the ball to Smith, who got fouled with seven seconds left. He sank both foul shots, putting the game on ice.

The Petrels led by as many as 12 points with 18:34 left, and still held a 54-43 advantage at the 15:30 mark. However, Washington and Lee scored nine consecutive points over a 2:15 stretch to suddenly take the lead, 60-59, with 9:20 on the clock. 

Oglethorpe built their big lead late in the first half. With the score tied at 22-22 at the 9:02 mark, the Petrels embarked on an 18-7 run over the next six minutes to build a 40-29 advantage with 2:38 remaining in the opening half of play. 

Washington and Lee enjoyed their largest lead with a 7-4 advantage at the 17:50 mark of the first half, but a three-pointer from Oglethorpe senior guard Chris Lawrence tied the game immediately after. The two teams traded baskets for the next 7:30.

Hughes once again led the team in points, scoring 18 for the second consecutive contest. He hit 6-of-11 from three-point range on Sunday. Smith also shot the ball well, adding 16 points on 5-of-10 from the field overall and 4-of-6 from three-point range. Koch led the team in rebounds with 10 while also contributing 5 points and 3 assists. Lawrence passed out a team-high 4 assists while scoring 8 points and grabbing 5 rebounds. Perry finished with 15 points on 7-of-12 from the field. He also collected 9 rebounds.

The Petrels shot 50 percent from the field overall and 50 percent from three-point range. They made 14 total shots from distance. They also outrebounded the Generals 49-38 and outscored them 30-9 off the bench.

"I was really pleased with the way the guys bounced back today after a tough night last night and such a quick turnaround," said Oglethorpe head coach Philip Ponder. "This was a great learning experience for us this weekend. Methodist was picked to win their league and Washington and Lee is a really quality squad. We are playing a freshman point guard and have several guys that haven't played competitive basketball in over a year due to injury, so we've got a bunch of guys that are playing together for the first time. In addition, our other point guard missed this entire weekend due to an injury. Today, we built up a pretty good lead only to see Washington and Lee make a run and come back. We could have wilted, but we had several guys make big plays down the stretch and pull out the win. This group has a long way to go before it totally gels, but today was a nice step forward."

The Petrels will take a few days off for Thanksgiving before heading to LaGrange next weekend for the Lee Richter Classic. There, they'll take on Maryville at 2 p.m. Saturday before coming back the next day for a battle with hosts LaGrange at 4 p.m.

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