PAINESVILLE, OHIO – Sophomore guard Nate Tait (South Euclid, Ohio/Brush/Alderson-Broaddus) hit a jumper with one second left to lift the Lake Erie College men's basketball team a thrilling 62-60 win over host Northwood University on Saturday night (Dec. 17) at the E.W. Bennett Sports Center in Midland, Mich.
Tait's bucket, which allowed the Storm (4-4, 1-3 GLIAC) to snap a three-game losing streak and break into the win column in Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) play, came after Willie Mustin missed a pair of free throws with eight seconds left that would have given Northwood (5-5, 2-3 GLIAC) the lead. Senior Brandon Smith (Bedford, Ohio/Bedford/Cuyahoga C.C.) corralled the second miss and pushed the ball ahead to Tait for the game-winner.
For a while, though, it looked as if this game would be identical to last year's meeting when the Storm let a second half lead slip away in a close home loss to the Timberwolves. Lake Erie led by nine at halftime and by seven early in the second half. Northwood battled back and took a four-point lead with 4:42 to play.
From there, the Storm went on a 7-0 run to retake a three-point lead, only to see the home team go back on top with under a minute to play. Robertas Grabauskas hit two free throws to give Northwood a 60-58 advantage, but sophomore Riley Thomas (Cardington, Ohio/Cardington Lincoln) hit two free throws of his own with 40 seconds left to knot things up at 60.
After Rich Austin (Cleveland, Ohio/St. Ignatius) blocked a Bobby Lewis shot, Mustin drew a foul on Smith with eight seconds to go. He was unable to convert on either and Tait came up with the big play for LEC.
Austin led all players with 22 points, his second 20-point game of the season. He was the only Storm player in double figures. Thomas finished with nine points. Lake Erie was 23-of-51 (45.1 percent) from the floor, including six three-pointers.
Grabauskas scored 16 points to lead Northwood, while Lewis chipped in with 15. The Timberwolves shot over 47% from the field, but were just two-of-15 from three-point range and only six-of-13 from the foul line.
Lake Erie also forced 19 turnovers, the fifth time this year the LED defense has forced 15 or more turnovers.
The Storm is idle until after Christmas. Lake Erie returns to the court right before New Year's when they travel to Winter Park, Fla., for the Winter Park Rotary Tangerine Tournament at Rollins College Dec. 29-30.