As soon as this year's men's basketball schedule was released, it was easy to see that head coach Bryan Rooney was looking to challenge his squad in the non-conference. Saturday night was no different as the Keelhaulers took on #3 ranked Indiana Wesleyan. The Wildcats won last year's NAIA National Championship and have won two of the last three championships. The Keelhaulers gave Indiana Wesleyan all they could handle but the Keelhaulers' final three point attempt at the buzzer missed and the visitors escaped with a 67-65 victory.
The first half was a back and forth affair with Indiana Wesleyan making a late surge to take a 34-30 half time lead. Coming out of halftime, it appeared the Wildcats would exert their will as they stretched the lead to double figures several times. Indiana Wesleyan came into the game with the 7th best scoring margin in its twelve previous victories winning by an average of nearly nineteen points. However, Cal Maritime would not go gently as the home team continued to battle and made an impressive run down the stretch. Senior Daniel Radford, who led the Keelhaulers with 24 points, knocked down two free throws to tie the game with 2 minutes to go. On the next possession, Cal Maritime's defense forced a contested shot but failed to secure the rebound leading to an offensive put back for the Wildcats. After trading a series of free throws, the Wildcats went to the line with 4 seconds to go with a chance to seal the victory. However, the first free throw missed the mark giving the Keelhaulers a shot at the buzzer.
First Team All American Lane Maahurin led the Wildcats with 24 points and 12 rebounds. He was joined in double figures by Saikou Jallow (11 points) and Jacob Johnson (10 points). The win moves Indiana Wesleyan's record to 13-1.
For the Keelhaulers, Phil Randles (12 points) and Justin Eisen (11 points) joined Radford in double figures. Cal Maritime had come into the game shooting an impressive 38% from the three point line but went cold tonight shooting only 5 of 22 from distance on the night. The Keelhaluers did force 19 Wildcat turnovers and held Indiana Wesleyan to only 2 made three pointers.
Coach Rooney commented on loss, "While disappointed in the result, we are extremely proud of the collective fight the guys showed tonight. We have great respect for Indiana Wesleyan and understand that we played one of the best teams in the country tonight. With that said, the most exciting thing to take from tonight might be that we have tremendous room for improvement. I am fired up to continue that journey with our family."
The Keelhaulers will take some time off and are back in action when they travel to Westmont College for a tournament on December 29th and 30th. These will be the final two games before the Keelhaulers head back into conference play.