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Hiram Locks Down OWU in Pivotal NCAC Showdown

Hiram Locks Down OWU in Pivotal NCAC Showdown

HIRAM, Ohio – Behind a 22-point effort from freshman guard Jalen Kirksey, the Hiram College men's basketball team upended Ohio Wesleyan, 72-66, on Wednesday evening at Price Gymnasium.

The victory for the Terriers marked a regular-season sweep of the Battling Bishops, the first such feat for the program since joining the North Coast Athletic Conference in 2000. Earlier in the year, Hiram edged the Bishops 88-79 in Delaware.

When crunch time came, it was the Terrier defense that locked down, holding OWU without a point for the final 4:15 of regulation.

After re-taking the advantage on a layup by Terrence Warren, the 20th lead change of the game, the Terriers stood strong on the defensive end. On Hiram's next possession, Kirksey sank a jumper, putting Hiram ahead 69-66 with 3:21 to play.

Four-straight defensive stands, including a block by senior Kelvin Jones, kept the Battling Bishops at bay.

The nail in the coffin came with just 13 seconds remaining, as sophomore Austin Blatt canned his first triple of the night off a feed from Brevin Dye, giving the Terriers the 72-66 advantage.

Blatt not only contributed on the offensive side, but he and senior Terrence Warren combined for a lock-down defensive effort on the NCAC's leading scorer, Nate Axelrod.

Coming into the game, Axelrod was averaging a league-best 19.7 points per night. However, the Terriers were able to key on the senior guard, holding him to a season-low four points on 1-of-8 shooting.

The game proved competitive from the jump between the current number three and four seeds in the conference standings, with neither side holding more than a three-point advantage through the first nine minutes.

Trailing 16-15 with 11:03 to play, Hiram mounted their first run of the night. The Terriers used an 11-3 run to take a seven-point advantage with 8:10 remaining in the half. Senior Paul Ortiz began the run with an "old-fashioned" three-point play, before sophomore Brevin Dye knocked down a pair of three-point baskets. Ortiz then bookended the run with a fast-break dunk to give Hiram a 26-19 advantage.

Dye tallied nine points in the first half to pace the offensive effort in the frame. Ortiz, meanwhile, concluded the first stanza with seven points.

The three-point shot would keep the Bishops in the game in the opening half. OWU knocked down eight triples through the first 20 minutes, including one at the first-half buzzer from Will Orr which cut the Terrier lead to 35-34 at the break.

Orr would begin the second half the way he ended the first, with a three from the corner, giving Ohio Wesleyan a two-point lead. Hiram would respond, however, with a 12-point run to open their largest advantage of the game (47-37) with 15:35 to play.

Warren tallied a pair of buckets in the run that also saw two baskets from Kirksey. Jones and senior Isaiah Matthews also tallied scores in the swing.

The Battling Bishops would once again make it a game, whittling down the Terrier lead, before taking a one-point advantage on a three from Seth Clark (62-61) with 7:48 to play.

The lock down defense by the Terriers would kick into high gear from there, allowing just a pair of layups over the final 7:48, to take the victory.

Kirksey led the offensive effort, posting his first-career 20-point game. The first-year guard finished with 22 on 10-of-16 shooting, including two from deep. He was joined in double digits by Warren and Jones. Warren finished with 15, while Jones added another double-double to his totals, finishing with 10 points and 13 rebounds.

Hiram will be back in action on Saturday, February 10, as the Terriers host the Tigers of Wittenberg University. The matchup, which will also serve as senior day, is slated for a 2 p.m. tip.

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