KALAMAZOO, Mich. - After the Thunder shook off the rust to a brand new season and settled into new roles, they turned a three point halftime deficit into a big win at Kalamazoo Thursday night with a 63-51 win over Earlham College.
Like any team, Trine’s new season brought some question marks. They had to find a way to replace the production of departed seniors Ian Jackson and Scott Rogers. Jackson was the conference’s most valuable player a year ago and the fifth-leading scorer in Trine University history. Rogers was a four-year starter and in the top-20 in the school’s career scoring.
The Thunder (1-0) started slowly against the Quakers (0-3), hitting just 26 percent of their shots in the first half. Even with the tough shooting, Trine’s customary tough defense and ball control kept them in the game. The Thunder forced 11 first half turnovers and kept the pressure on the Quaker guards on the perimeter.
Earlham’s biggest lead of the first half was six at 26-20, after a bucket by Quaker sophomore guard Jack O’Flaherty with 1:12 left before the break. Trine bounced back immediately with a long ball from junior Jake Bagley (Van Wert, Ohio/Van Wert) to head into the locker room trailing, 26-23.
It was a tougher and more focused Trine team who took the floor immediately in the second half. The half-court defense intensified and they forced Earlham into more miscues.
Senior and team captain Todd Watkins (Cincinnati, Ohio/St. Bernard) hit a layup to pull to within one. Then, it was time for junior Tyler Good (Swanton, Ohio/Evergreen) to take over. His layup gave the Thunder a 27-26 lead and provided a glimpse of things to come. Good scored 15 of his career-high 21 points in the second half and served as the catalyst of the offense.
Earlham briefly bounced back to lead 34-29, but it wouldn’t last. Trine blasted a 28 to 8 run over the next 13 minutes to gain firm control of the game. That span was highlighted by 13 points by Good, including an old-fashioned three point play and several jumpers and slashes toward the basket. Sophomore Tarvis Malone (Toledo, Ohio/St. Johns Jesuit) scored five in-a-row during the run, including his first three-point field goal of the year.
Earlham would never get closer than 11 the rest of the way, and Trine coasted to a 63-51 win.
The Thunder shot 47 percent in the second half and 34 percent overall. That was mitigated largely to the staggering turnover differential forced by the Thunder. Trine created 22 Earlham turnovers and committed just five of their own. That continues to be a strength for a team who placed among the nation’s leaders in fewest turnovers per game last year.
Good was aggressive and confident on his way to a career-high 21 points on 9 of 18 shooting. Watkins notched a double-double with 11 points and a team-high 10 rebounds. Sophomore Jared Holmquist (Reed City, Mich./Reed City) totaled eight points and eight rebounds and played 32 minutes.
Freshman Will Dixon (Indianapolis, Ind./Zionsville) was quick and impressive with the ball in his collegiate debut, scoring seven and recording three steals.
Junior point guard Dustin Hall (Fort Wayne, Ind./South Side) was supremely solid, dishing out nine assists and not committing a single turnover. He also pulled down five rebounds and swiped a game-high five steals. Bagley finished with six points, and Malone scored five.
Trine gets right back into action on Friday Nov. 22 with a match-up against Manchester University in Kalamazoo at 8 p.m. Both games are a part of the MIAA-HCAC Challenge.