ANGOLA, IND. -- Coming into the contest with a one-game lead in the standings, the Trine University men's basketball team left no doubt in securing its first Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association regular-season championship with an 85-52 win against Alma (Mich.) College at the MTI Center on senior day.
Trine maintained a slight two-point margin at halftime, 30-28, but then outscored Alma, 55-24, in the second half en route to posting the 33-point victory and the program's first conference regular-season title since joining the MIAA in 2004.
The Thunder were led in scoring by senior Myles Copeland (Perrysburg, Ohio/Toledo St. John's) with a game-high 20 points on nine-of-16 shooting (56.3 percent) and also grabbed a team-best seven rebounds. Junior Langston Johnson (Elkart, Ind./Elkhart Central) connected on five three-pointers (five-of-six overall) and finished second in scoring with 19 points. Fellow junior Maurice Hunter (Monroe, Mich./Monroe) was next with 14 points and senior Pete Smith (Bristol, Ind./Northridge) rounded out the high scorers with 12 points. Junior Marcus Winters (Toledo, Ohio/Central Catholic) left his mark setting up the offense with a game-high nine assists.
As a team, Trine shot 45.8 percent (33-of-72) for the game, including 60.0 percent (21-of-35) in the second half alone. The Thunder also forced 18 Alma turnovers which they converted into 26 points.
The game started out at a back-and-forth pace as the first half consisted of four ties and seven lead changes. Alma (5-20, 4-10 MIAA) was thinking of a possible upset as the Scots had a six-point lead, 13-7, just over the 14-minute mark of the opening period. Back-to-back jumpers by Copeland on consecutive offensive trips made it a one-possession game and pulled Trine (18-7, 11-3 MIAA) to within two points, 13-11, with 12:04 to go in the half.
Neither team led by more than four points the remainder of the half and Trine recorded its first lead since the 16:13 mark with a little over eight minutes left as part of a five-point mini scoring run that ended in a triple by Johnson to make it an 18-17 ball game. The two teams later battled to a 25-25 tie with 3:04 left when both squads went scoreless for over a minute-and-a-half until another tre by Johnson ended the drought and put Trine out in front by three points, 28-25.
Alma answered with a three-pointer of its own on its ensuing possession to tie the game at 28-28, but a pair of free-throws by Johnson with just seconds remaining, ended the scoring in the half and gave the Thunder a two-point edge at the break, 30-28.
Trine opened the second half by outscoring Alma, 15-4, in the first 4:35 that included a streak of seven unanswered points on its way to recording its first double-digit lead of the game and a 13-point advantage, 45-32, following a layup by Smith with 15:25 to go. The Trine lead never dropped below double figures the rest of the way as the Thunder also continued to pull away.
A three-pointer by Johnson just before the 13-minute mark sparked a 12-0 run for Trine that put the Thunder above the 20-point lead plateau for the first time by a score of 59-37. The hot shooting continued as Trine surpassed the 30-point margin with 4:53 left to play on a layup by senior Sean Corcoran (Flint, Mich./Powers) to make the score, 76-45.
As time wound down and the game was in hand, junior Jason Clune (Meadville, Pa./Meadville) connected on a triple with about a minute to go that gave Trine its largest lead of the game of 35 points with a score of 85-50. The final points of the game came on a pair of Alma free-throws, but the ending was never in question as the Thunder went on to claim the 85-52 victory.
Trine will be the top seed in the MIAA Tournament that begins next week and will host the semifinal and championship games at the MTI Center next weekend. The Thunder will face the winner of the No. 4 seed Calvin vs. No. 5 seed Hope game, which will be played on Tuesday, in their first game of the tournament on Friday, Feb. 22 with tip-off scheduled for 3 p.m.