There was heartbreak in Greenville Friday night as the BJU Bruins fell 69-71 to Pensacola Christian College. The Davis Field House amassed more than 3,100 fans as the Bruins took on the Eagles in search of redemption after their close loss against Clearwater one week earlier. The game promised to be a close one as the Bruins looked for their ninth victory against a larger Eagles squad.
The battle began with a 3-point exhibition from both teams, as a combined 36 points were added to the books in the first half from 3-pointers alone. The Bruins drew from the crowd’s energy, and the play was physical, fast and exciting.
Pensacola looked to make use of their size advantage early. The Eagles worked the ball around the arc while setting screens to open up their forwards in the paint. The Bruins’ answer was to be quick in the backcourt. BJU has used the fast break all season, and Friday night was no different.
The game was back and forth as the first half progressed, and the intensity led to an Eagle receiving a technical foul at the close of the half. The Bruins headed to the locker room with a 38-34 lead.
At halftime the Bruins honored alumni from 1994 and 2004. This recognition was also a special citation for Brian Donnelly, an alumnus who died recently. In the community Donnelly was a police officer, but more importantly, a beacon of light living a life that reflected Christ. A plaque was presented to his wife and acknowledged by a standing ovation from the crowd.
Led by a calm Larry Taylor, the Bruins remained consistent throughout the second half, but unfortunately the Eagles did as well. Taylor, with his quickness and precision, was able to dissect the defense multiple times, allowing him to either take an open lane or dish. The Eagles shot well from beyond the arc, but the Bruins managed to answer with many quick backcourt plays and hard work in the paint.
Near the end of the second half, the game remained a draw. With both teams in the bonus, the score crept up with under five minutes to play. With less than one minute remaining, the Eagles had a chance to go up by a game-sealing four points. The shot missed its mark, and the Bruins quickly snatched the rebound and called timeout with 14 seconds remaining.
In the huddle the Bruins drew up a play to attempt a tie at 71. Taylor penetrated the defense at the top of the key and passed the ball to Kyle Turner. Realizing time was running out and not having an open look, Turner dumped the ball back outside to Zach Mercado, who triggered a 3-pointer. His shot rattled the rim and was rebounded by Kirtis Yurchak at the elbow, who offered up a desperation put-back as time expired. His shot also rimmed out, and the Bruins fell 69-71 to the Eagles.
The loss hands the Bruins an 8-11 record and a much-needed weekend to recover.