Trojans Drop Hard-Fought Battle in CL Tournament Quarterfinals
MARION, Ind. – The Taylor men’s basketball season came to an end on Wednesday in the Crossroads League Tournament Quarterfinals, but not without a valiant showing from the Trojans, who went toe-to-toe with top-seeded Indiana Wesleyan before finally falling by a 74-66 margin.
The TU squad turned in its best defensive performance of the season, holding the NAIA’s third-ranked offense to its lowest scoring output of the season and nearly 26 points below its scoring average for the year. Taylor’s effort on the defensive end led to IWU being held under the 80-point mark for the first time all season and snapped a stretch of five-straight games with at least 100 points for the Wildcats, who suffered two of their eight lowest scoring outputs of the season against the Trojan defense this year.
The hosts were equally as stingy on the defensive end however, and controlled the interior to turn the game in their favor. Indiana Wesleyan pulled down 15 more rebounds than Taylor in the contest and outscored the Purple and Gold by a 42-18 margin in the paint.
The game was up for grabs throughout, with neither side even extending a lead of more than eight points and with the spread hovering between one and two possessions for the majority of the night.
Taylor jumped to an early 14-9 lead and rallied back from an eight-point deficit late in the opening half, reclaiming a 33-32 lead on a triple at the buzzer from Vincent Miranda.
IWU stormed out of the intermission with a 7-0 burst, but Taylor did not flinch and kept the Wildcats within six points until the deficit grew to eight with 3:58 to play.
TU continued to hang around and pulled to within 66-63 with 1:38 showing on the clock on five-straight points from CJ Penha but Indiana Wesleyan hit its free throws in the closing moments to hold off the Trojans.
Penha closed the tilt with his ninth-straight game with at least 20 points, ending on 20 points exactly and adding seven rebounds and four assists. Hubbard also had an active night, battling through an in-game injury to post 14 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals. Hubbard also held the NAIA’s leading scorer, Kyle Mangas, eight points under his season average.
Penha closed the season with a scoring average of 20.1 points per game for TU, becoming the first Trojan to average at least 20 per game since Casey Coons posted 20.0 a night in 2011-2012. Hubbard followed at 19.2 points per outing, giving TU its highest scoring tandem in the Josh Andrews era, and the two top individual single-season scoring averages in that time.
One of Penha or Hubbard scored at least 20 points in each of Taylor’s final 16 games of the 2020-2021 season, helping Penha close his junior campaign ranked 39th on TU’s all-time scoring list with 1,148 and classmate Hubbard close at 42nd with 1,126.
Gavin Yoon continued his hot stretch to close his freshman campaign with 12 points on four-of-eight shooting from beyond the arc and seniors Miranda and James McCloud each netted 10 points in their final collegiate contests.
Taylor closed its 2020-2021 season at 11-14 overall, qualifying for the Crossroads League Tournament for a sixth-straight year.