With its unblemished mark in serious jeopardy, the Grinnell College men’s basketball team stepped up big against Illinois College Tuesday at Darby Gymnasium.
The visiting Blueboys built a 22-point first-half lead and still was up by 15 with just over 5 minutes left in the game, but the Pioneers stormed back to claim a thrilling 115-113 Midwest Conference victory to move to 10-0 on the season.
Grinnell, 6-0 in the MWC, used a 30-13 run in the final 5:35 to seal the victory and extend its regular-season winning streak to 19 games dating back to last season.
Griffin Lentsch ’13 led the Pioneers with 23 points, while Jesse Ney ’13 was close behind with 21.
Matt Chalupa ’13 tallied 13 points, Pat Maher ’14 added 11 points while dishing out six assists and Evan Johnson ’15 also had 11 points. Joe Rogers ’13 had eight points and five steals, Garrett Nitz ’13 tallied seven assists and Jack Adams ’13 blocked two shots.
Zeke Light scored a game-high 27 points for the Blueboys, who fell to 3-8 overall and 1-5 in the MWC.
The Blueboys, who were 7-of-7 from 3-point range in the first half and shot 71.7 percent from the field for the game, went up 41-19 midway through the first half. Grinnell rallied, though, and was within 60-53 by halftime.
But the Blueboys tore out again in the second half, twice going up by 18. The last of those instances was with 14:12 left when it was 80-62.
It was a 100-85 lead for the visitors with 5:35 remaining, which is when Grinnell began clawing back. The Pioneers reduced the gap and eventually tied the game at 110-all with 1:00 left. Chalupa sparked the run, scoring 10 points including a pair of 3-pointers. Nitz and Ney had three points apiece.
After the visitors went up 112-110, Lentsch drained a 3-pointer with :38 left to give Grinnell the lead for good.
Marques Valdez ’13 added a charity shot at the :21 mark and Maher another with :04 left to make it 115-112.
Illinois College finished the scoring with a free throw with :02 left.
Grinnell hits the road this weekend, playing at Lawrence University at 7 p.m. Friday and at Carroll University at 3 p.m. Saturday.