Eric Andrews | Echo
The Taylor men's basketball team defeated (RV) Mount Vernon Nazarene 93-73 last Saturday in Odle Arena. The victory improved the Trojans' season record to 15-11.
Sophomore guard Ryan Robinson fueled the upset victory, establishing a new career-high of 36 points, including a program-tying nine three-pointers, eight of which came in the second half.
"He's a gifted scorer as it is, but when he gets going, he's a load to contain," said head coach Josh Andrews. "He was making shots from all over, (and) I think he knew it was going in before he let it go."
The Trojans stumbled out of the gate, falling behind the Cougars by six points heading into halftime with the score 42-36. To combat the disappointing first half, the team refocused during the intermission and set their sights on the fresh start of the second half.
The change in mentality showed, with Robinson and sophomore guard Mason Degenkolb exploding for a combined 42 second-half points. The duo finished the evening with a combined 63 points.
"I thought it was one of the best games we've played as a team yet this season," said junior forward Jake Heggeland. "I was really happy with obviously the outcome, but also how we played together. (Robinson) and (Degenkolb) both stepped up in incredible ways."
Degenkolb played a team-high 32 minutes in the victory, tallying 27 points, including a perfect 11-11 from the free-throw line.
Robinson accounted for 28 of Taylor's 57 second-half points, 24 of which came from beyond the arc. Robinson's career-best outing smashed his previous high of 24 points in a 94-90 loss against No. 22 Bethel on Nov. 21.
"After a couple (of three-pointers) went in in the second half, you get that little feeling like, 'Everything is feeling right tonight,'" Robinson said. "But I really wasn't pressing it; I was letting the game come to me and finding good shots that were going in."
Andrews credited Mount Vernon Nazarene's motion offense, noting it is the best in the Crossroads League. Being able to compete and take over the game when the opportunity presented itself excited Andrews.
Both Andrews and Heggeland noted their hope for the victory to serve as a launch pad for success in the homestretch of the season.
"We think we are one of the most skilled teams at the school in a long time, and we need to start playing like it and playing together and playing for each other and with the passion that I think was slightly absent in the middle of the season," Heggeland said.
The Trojans took their show on the road Tuesday night, traveling to Marion, Indiana to play arch-rival No. 6 Indiana Wesleyan.
Despite another big outing from Robinson, the Trojans fell to the Wildcats 95-86, dropping Taylor's season record to 15-12.
Robinson tallied 26 points, while Heggeland chipped in 19. Junior guard Evan Crowe added 13 points, while freshman guard Vincent Miranda drained 12.
While the game appeared to be very even on paper, it was decided by virtue of points in the paint. The Wildcats dominated the Trojans, outscoring Taylor in the paint 54-38.
The Trojans will play three final regular season games before the Crossroads League tournament, beginning with a home game against Goshen Saturday at 3 p.m. in Odle Arena.
"We want to finish the season at the highest level we can and see where that takes us," Heggeland said. "We think we can make a run here in the conference tournament. Obviously, we want to repeat what we did last year and make a national tournament appearance, but right now that means taking it one game at a time. It's not so much looking forward because nothing is guaranteed. We need to get there first."
"Photograph by Brad Timmerman"