WICHITA — McPherson College men's basketball coach Tim Swartzendruber believed his team could upset Friends Thursday night if it "held" Falcon star Joe Mitchell to "30 or 35 points."
Mitchell came into the game averaging just under 33 to lead the nation.
Had the Bulldogs held him to 33, they would have won the game.
Mitchell went off for 41 points, as the Falcons held off a furious Bulldog rally for an important 93-87 victory. Friends and Bethany are now 10-3 in the KCAC, both teams a half-game back of 10-2 Sterling, whose game Thursday with Tabor was postponed when a fire broke out at Sterling's Gleason Center and once put out, there was too much smoke to continue.
Friends came out white-hot, leading 27-7. But the Bulldogs settled down to slice the lead to seven by half, 38-31.
The second half turned into a track meet. Friends went back up as many as 16, but again the Bulldogs charged back, getting as close as five.
“We just dug ourselves too deep a hole," Swartzendruber said. "I was proud of how we competed and came back."
Mitchell again showed why he's way too good for the KCAC. He was 12 of 19 from the field and drained 14 of 17 free throws. He also dished off for seven assists. Zach Nelson was another thorn in the side with 21 points and Blake Wilson added 10.
Swartzendruber's move of inserting T.J. Grant into the starting the lineup was a stroke of genius as the transfer guard scored 22 points. Double-double machine Devirous Johnson did his thing with 17 points and 13 rebounds, while Samson Shivers and Brian Johnson scored 10 apiece.
Mac is now 5-8 in the KCAC and tied with Southwestern for seventh place, though the Bulldogs at this point hold the tiebreaker. Mac, 12-13 overall, hosts Tabor Saturday. It will be "Pink Out Night," with all fans urged to wear pink. Game time is 7 p.m.
Mac (87) — Grant 22, Lakin 2, D. Johnson 17, Berry 2, DeRoo 9, Shivers 10, Henson 7, Woods 6, B. Johnson 10, Bevan 2.
Friends (93) — Nelson 21, Mitchell 41, Simmonds 1, Wilson 10, Williams 5, White 8, Anderson 1, Rausch 6.
• FRIENDS WOMEN 93, MAC 51 — The Bulldogs just don't match up well with Friends.
The Bulldogs made just 14 percent of their shots in the first half to fall behind 42-11 and while they scored 40 second-half points, their defense suffered by giving up 51.
Mac fell to 4-9 in the KCAC and 8-17 overall with its 11th loss in the last 12 games.
Bailey Brown was the bright spot for Mac with 16 points. Sarah Munds led Friends with 28 points and the Falcons were 12 of 27 from 3-point — 7 of 13 by Munds.
Mac plays the KCAC's other second-place team, Tabor, here Saturday, with game time 5 p.m.
Mac (51) — Short 6, Ellis 3, Barton 8, Brown 16, Smart 3, Jefferson 4, Tejero 7, Engelbert 4.
Friends (93) — Sanders 2, Sellers 8, Winningham 11, Ptacek 14, Justice 5, Steffenson 13, Munds 28, Bailey 3, Mollere 3, Wilson 4, Bartelds 2.