ALLIANCE, OHIO – Sophomore guard Aaron Stefanov (Stow/Stow-Munroe Falls) scored a career-high 29 points as the Hiram College men's basketball team grabbed an 86-72 victory against the University of Mount Union tonight (Tuesday, Nov. 15) in the season opener for both teams in Alliance.
With the win, the Terriers open the season with a 1-0 overall record. The Purple Raiders begin the season 0-1 overall.
Hiram got off to a slow start to begin the game as Mount Union scored the first eight points of the game. But the Terriers answered with four straight points, all from senior guard Andrew Wiegand (Amherst/Firelands), to narrow the gap to 8-4 early in the contest. Hiram stayed within striking distance and were down, 17-13, with 9:29 left in the period, when one of Stefanov's five three-pointers on the night sparked a 14-0 scoring run to put the Terriers up, 27-17, with 8:13 left before halftime. Hiram never trailed the remainder of the first half and led by as many as 16 points on two occassions, including a halftime score of 42-26.
Hiram continued its hot shooting in the second half and built its lead to 25 points, 62-37, at the 12:16 mark on a triple by senior guard Jamaal Watkins (South Euclid/Brush). Mount Union would make things interesting down the stretch, narrowing the gap to 11 points, 78-67, with 3:27 left in the game. But the earlier Hiram lead would be enough as the Terriers maintained their double-digit lead and went on to claim the 86-72 victory.
Mount Union shot 39.4 percent (26-of-66) from the field as a team and were led by Jimmy Wood with a game-tying high 29 points on 10-of-16 shooting (62.5 percent) and seven-of-seven from the free-throw line. Matt Wier was second with 19 points, including a team-high nine rebounds, and T.J. Gillespie rounded out the Purple Raider high scorers with 12 points.
Hiram shot 45.3 percent (29-of-64) from the field, including 43.5 percent (10-of-23) from behind the three-point line, and an impressive 90.0 percent (18-of-20) at the free-throw line. The Terriers also out-rebound Mount Union, 43-34. Stefanov paced Hiram with a game-tying high 29 points on eight-of-14 shooting (57.1 percent), including five-of-nine from three-point range (55.6 percent) and a perfect eight-of-eight at the charity stripe. Wiegand finished the game with 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Watkins scored 16 points to go along with game-high 12 rebounds and freshman guard Branden Means (Canton) scored 10 points in his collegiate debut.
Hiram will look for its second win of the season when it hosts Notre Dame College on Saturday, Nov. 19 in a non-conference game and home opener at Price Gymnasium. Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m.