OLIVET, Mich. – At a timeout with his team down 18 in the second half, Albion College Head Coach Jody May advised his team there was no time to waste if it was to make a comeback against Olivet College.
Winners of four in a row, Albion climbed to .500 (6-6) against MIAA rivals to keep hope of qualifying for the league tournament alive. The road during the final week of the regular season isn't easy with a Wednesday night game at Alma College and a 3 o'clock Saturday home date with Trine University, but at least the Britons have a chance.
"I don't know how we did it, but we found a way to win," May said. "This team has faced a lot of adversity. We've had injuries after injuries and we have a lot of inexperienced guys. We're starting to gel. This is a lot of fun seeing us play our best basketball these last two weeks."
Olivet aided Albion's comeback by misfiring from 3-point range. Olivet started hitting 12-of-24 from behind the arc, but it connected on just 1-of-5 over the final 10 minutes.
Despite its cold finish, Olivet managed to shoot 44 percent from 3-point range for the game.
"Olivet is a 3-point shooting team and they made some for a lot of the game, but then they stopped making them which really helped," May said. "They had the same shots they had before. Those shots got tighter once we crept back into the game."
Mitchell Rubio, a junior forward from Grand Blanc, provided the spark off the bench with six points and six rebounds in 12 minutes. All that after not being called upon in the first half.
Trailing by nine with seven minutes left, Albion reeled off an 8-0 run. Corey Wheeler, Albion's leading scorer with 19 points on the night, produced four points, while Darius Branch chipped in with a jumper and Aquavius Burks tacked on a pair of free throws.
Albion gained its first lead of the second half on Branch's layup moved the score to 71-70 with 3:49 to play.
The score was tied twice and the lead changed two times. Wheeler's layup boosted Albion to a 79-77 lead it would not relinquish.
Jordan Terry made a pair of layups in the closing seconds to keep Olivet within striking distance, but Albion made its final nine free throw attempts. Branch knocked down all seven of his attempts in the final 22 seconds.
Wheeler led the Britons with 19, shooting an efficient 5-of-7 from the field and 7-of-10 from the line.
Branch, 11-for-11 from the line, chipped in with 17 points.
Bench players Dylan Bennett and Burks contributed 11 points apiece. Bennett hit 3-of-5 3-point shots, while Burks completed his first collegiate double-double with 13 rebounds.
Albion seized the lead for good on Wheeler's layup with 1:06 to play.
Albion had five players score in double figures. Branch hit all 11 of his free throws to finish with 17 points. Bennett and Burks produced 11 points Wednesday, and Burks finished his first double-double at Albion with 13 rebounds.