PAINESVILLE, OHIO – For the second straight season the Lake Erie College men's basketball team gave 12th-ranked Indiana University (Pa.) all it could handle, but the Storm's upset bid of the defending national runners-up came up just short despite a ferocious second-half comeback, 80-76, on Tuesday night (Nov. 23) at Memorial Field House.
The Storm (2-1) trailed by 16 points at halftime, but had a chance to tie the game near end of regulation, but a deep three by freshman Riley Thomas (Cardington, Ohio/Cardington Lincoln) came up just short and Darryl Webb hit a free throw seal it for the Crimson Hawks (2-1).
Senior guard Ethan Bradshaw (Cincinnati, Ohio/Harmony Prep) scored 15 of his game-high 25 points in the first half, but the Storm shot just 39 percent from the field, including one-of-12 from beyond the arc, and trailed 43-27 at the break.
After halftime, Lake Erie road the hot hand of junior Brandon Smith (Bedford, Ohio/Bedford/Cuyahoga Community College) to close within two points with seven minutes remaining, at 64-62. After being held scores in the opening period, Smith buried four three-pointers and scored a career-high 16 points in the first nine minutes of the second half as Lake Erie outscored IUP 35-21.
The Hawks pushed the lead back to seven, but the Storm came right back and a three from Bradshaw made it 72-69 with just over 3:30 to go. Thomas scored five points in the first 30 seconds of the final minute to again make it a three-point game at 79-76 and had a final look after an IUP turnover, but couldn't extend the contest.
IUP was able to escape by connecting on 13-of-16 free throws in the second half. The Crimson Hawks made more free tosses in the final period than the Storm attempted in the entire game (eight-of-12).
The Storm hit nine three's in the second-half (15 attempts) and finished the game shooting 46.8% overall (29-of-62). Lake Erie also held an impressive 21-6 edge on the boards in the second half, as Smith led the way with a career-high-tying eight rebounds.
Bradshaw and Smith (16) were the only two LEC players in double figures. Thomas finished with eight points.
Julian Sanders led IUP with 22 points. Willi Estrella had a double-double with 19 points and a game-high 10 rebounds while Webb finished with 16 points and eight boards. The Hawks shot 49.1% (27-of-55) for the game, including 10-of-18 in the second half.
The Storm returns to Northwestern Pennsylvania on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 27, when they play Mercyhurst College in Erie at 4 p.m.