Dayton, Tenn. – The 17th ranked Tennessee Wesleyan Bulldogs remain atop the Appalachian Athletic Conference with a 12-1 conference record after defeating the Bryan College Lions on Saturday, Jan. 30, but the host Lions gave pressure to the Bulldogs, making it a close 89-86 decision.
Before tipoff, Bryan's Robert Troino (SR/Crossville, Tenn.) was honored for his achievement of 1,000 career points. He reached the milestone earlier this season on Dec. 1 against Oakwood University (Ala.). After the first meeting with Tennessee Wesleyan this year, Troino stood at 993 career points. An eight-point outing against Oakwood brought his total to 1,001. He currently has compiled 1,130 total points, 230 of those coming from this year. After recognizing him, Troino took to the court and demonstrated his significance to the team after scoring 24 points against the Bulldogs, trailing teammate and NAIA Div. II scoring leader, Brandon Cole (SR/Crossville, Tenn.). Troino shot 9-for-17 from the floor, a notable 5-for-11 behind the arc, and added four rebounds and two assists. He is averaging 11.5 points per game, ranking him 19th in the AAC. He ranks 3rd in the conference in total three-pointers made with 47.
Cole earned his seventh consecutive double-double, scoring 28 points on 10-for-18 shooting (8-for-12 from foul line) and grabbing 14 rebounds. He is currently tied for 1st in the AAC in total double-doubles with 13 this season. He leads the nation in scoring, averaging 29.2 points per game and tallying 584 points. He is No. 1 in the nation in offensive rebounds per game with 4.35, No. 3 in total rebounds per game with 11.45, and No. 7 in total rebounds with 229.
The AAC individual assists leader, Oteriah Lee (SO/Knoxville, Tenn.), also ranks 8th in the nation in assists per game (5.9) and 13th in total assists (118). He added eight assists and 14 points (5-for-10) against the Bulldogs, while fellow teammate Tyler Yoder (SO/Crossville, Tenn.) also chipped in 14 points on 5-for-8 shooting (4-for-6 from three-point line) and aided with three boards and three assists. Yoder ranks 2nd in the AAC in total three-pointers made with 51 and three-pointers made per game averaging 2.55. He holds an impressive 45.5 shooting percentage behind the arc this season, placing him in 2nd in the conference and 20th in the nation.
Big-man, Brice Cusick (SO/Jefferson City, Tenn.), was unable to get anything going offensively but compiled 10 rebounds in the contest. He ranks 8th in the AAC in both total rebounds (140) and rebounds per game (7.0).
It was a shoot-out as both teams fared remarkable field-goal percentages. Bryan edged out Tennessee Wesleyan 50.0 percent compared to their 49.3 percent shooting from the floor. The Lions won the rebound battle, collecting 39 to the Bulldogs 34. Bryan ended the contest with 18 assists, but Tennessee Wesleyan dished out 28. The Bulldogs also led in steals (10-2) and committed six less turnovers (11-17).
The Bulldogs pushed themselves to an early lead, 15-11, but Lee countered with a basket from downtown to bring the Lions within one point, 15-14. A defensive stop on the other end of the court gave way to another Lee bucket but this time from inside. Troino capped off the 8-0 run with a three-pointer, regaining the lead 19-15.
Bryan held the lead until 1:44 was left until halftime, when Tennessee Wesleyan sank a long-range shot to make it 37-35. The Bulldogs expanded their lead to five points with a last-second three-pointer before halftime, making it 40-35 at the break.
Seven minutes into the second half Bryan rallied for an 8-0 run, giving the Lions a 60-56 lead. The lead was short-lived as Tennessee Wesleyan battled their way back midway through the second half for the eighth tie-point of the game, 62-62. The Bulldogs recaptured the lead and slowly created space between the Lions, going up 82-72 at the 4:23 mark.
The Lions team made a valiant effort on a comeback, finding themselves down 86-76 with 3:22 left in the game. Over the next three minutes, Bryan allowed Tennessee Wesleyan only three points while they clawed away for ten points. After Bryan was unable to capitalize on the last few possessions, the 17th ranked Bulldogs escaped with an 89-86 AAC victory.
The Lions move to 10-10 overall and 5-6 in conference play. Bryan returns to action Monday, Feb. 1, as fellow AAC opponent, 6th ranked Union College (Ky.), hosts the Lions at 7:30pm.
For the full Bryan College Men's Basketball schedule, click here.