Jo Griffin poured in a career-best 29 points, and four others scored in double figures as the Kentucky Wesleyan College men's basketball team claimed an 87-71 win over conference foe Tiffin on Saturday at the Sportscenter.
The victory was the second in a row for the Panthers, who improved to 3-5 overall and 2-0 in G-MAC play.
Griffin, a 6-foot-1 junior guard in his first season at Wesleyan, made 10-of-20 shots from the floor, including 4-of-10 from deep, and made all five of his foul shots.
"What can you say about Jo?" KWC coach Drew Cooper said after the game. "I think he's getting more comfortable. I think people are starting to see why we were so excited having another Griffin come into Kentucky Wesleyan. He's a leader for us, on and off the floor."
Wyatt Battaile added 14 points and five rebounds for KWC, while Adam Goetz chipped in 13 points and nine rebounds. Stew Currie and Zach Hopewell finished with 11 points apiece.
Tiffin (5-5, 0-2) led 17-15 midway through the first half after a dunk by Thomas Hickman, but the Panthers reeled off a 24-5 run -- including a stretch of seven straight points by Griffin -- for a 17-point lead with 1:39 left before halftime.
A 6-1 spurt by the Dragons cut Wesleyan's lead to 40-28 at intermission.
Consecutive 3-pointers by Griffin and Goetz helped KWC to a 48-30 advantage less than four minutes into the second half, and the Panthers took their largest lead of the day on Griffin's 3 that put the Panthers ahead 58-37 just two minutes later.
The Dragons had one last effort left in them, using an 11-4 run to cut the deficit to 78-69 with 3:28 remaining, but the Panthers won eight of the next 11 points to seal the victory.
"We knew how they played," Cooper said of Tiffin. "It was gonna be a high-possession game. With the exception of Oakland City, 87 is a higher point total than we generally have. It was about not turning the ball over and making two-footed plays, and I think we did that."
The Panthers turned the ball over just nine times for their second straight outing of single-digit giveaways. On the other end, KWC forced 15 errors leading to an 18-8 edge in scoring off turnovers.
For the game, KWC shot 46% from the field, including 10-of-31 from 3-point range (32.3%).
Tiffin, led by Jairus Stevens's 24 points and 10 rebounds, shot 34.9% from the floor, 8-of-26 from distance (30.8%) and 19-of-21 on free throws (90.5%).
"You saw Tiffin get confidence at the free-throw line," Cooper said. "We were 19-of-27 (70.4%), but there was a stretch there in the second half when we didn't step up and make them. That was a concern because that's a game that you need to hit free throws to win. We were fortunate to have guys step up and hit them."
The Panthers now get a nine-day break before returning to action Dec. 16 against Cedarville, and the start to league play has KWC feeling optimistic moving forward.
"It's a long basketball season, and we're gonna continue to grind and try to get better," Cooper said, "and try to get our foot in the door with postseason play and be playing our best basketball at the end of the season."