Justin Chapman | Echo
Odle Arena was packed this past Tuesday as the men's basketball team, who are receiving votes in the national poll, faced off against its conference rival No. 9 Indiana Wesleyan. Over 1,000 fans were in attendance to witness the 75-69 loss to the Wildcats.
After controlling the first half and gaining a nine-point lead at halftime, the Trojans squandered it and did not lead again in the second half. The loss puts them tied for fourth in the Crossroads League. They have now lost four consecutive games. The Trojans have a season record of 17-10 overall and 8-7 in the conference.
The Trojans played without three of their key players: sophomore Evan Crowe, freshman Mason Degenkolb and freshman Ryan Robinson all sat out, serving their first game of a three game suspension as a result of misconduct. As a consequence, junior Keaton Hendricks and senior Eric Cellier each played 38 minutes.
"I think fatigue started to settle in," head coach Josh Andrews said. "That's what affected the second half; fatigue caused . . . some errant passes, and we weren't as strong with the ball. And I think (Indiana) Wesleyan had 10 turnovers and we had 20. That's the difference in the game."
Andrews said that Cellier stepped up and played well, especially in the first half. Cellier made many strong plays for the team and Andrews added that, for a period of time, he thought the team competed nearly to perfection.
Taylor's biggest lead during the game was 12, after Cellier converted a three-pointer to make the score 26-38. Indiana Wesleyan fought to bring the lead back down to single digits before halftime. Cellier had 18 points in the first half.
"We fought so hard," Cellier said. "We felt like we deserved that game. We were up for 75 percent of the game. I've never beaten (Indiana Wesleyan) in my four years here, I wanted to get that one pretty badly. Maybe we'll see them again down the road."
Indiana Wesleyan is in the midst of a winning season. They are 21-6 overall and 11-4 in the Crossroads League. Wins come as easily as layups for the Wildcats, as they won the NAIA Division II National Championship last year.
Going into this game the team had to plan differently and make some adjustments. Andrews mentioned that the team had to not push as much this game, specifically in transition. Without three important players the team had slow down the tempo.
"It was more about ball movement and spacing," Andrews said. "The phrase we use as a coaching staff is being patiently aggressive. We're trying to pick and choose our spots. I thought our group did a great job at that. We were right there."
Taylor has not defeated Indiana Wesleyan since the 2011-12 season when Taylor swept them in the regular season. Both wins came at a time when Indiana Wesleyan was ranked No. 14 in the country.
Former Taylor head coach Paul Patterson led the team at the time. When the Trojans beat Indiana Wesleyan at home that season, it was Patterson's 707th win, making him the winningest coach in Indiana college basketball history, a record he still holds today.
The Trojans look to bounce back as they face Goshen tomorrow. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m.
"Photograph provided by Fayth Glock"