The No. 20-ranked Raven men's basketball team used 21 second-half free throws to turn a four-point halftime advantage into a 10-point win over Central Methodist University on Saturday in the Heart of America Athletic Conference (HAAC) Game of the Week.
Benedictine (16-6, 9-3 HAAC) made 15 free throws over the final 90 seconds of the game to hold off a late run by CMU (14-10, 7-5 HAAC) to earn a 75-65 win and pick up the season sweep over the Eagles.
Benedictine's win combined with an upset by Culver-Stockton College over Evangel on Saturday afternoon puts Benedictine, Culver and Evangel in a three-way tie atop the HAAC standings with six games remaining in the conference regular season. CMU and MNU sit two games back of the trio, putting the top five spots in the conference standings in play as everyone enters the home stretch.
After falling behind by five points early, the Ravens pushed through the slow start against the Eagles, battling back to take their first lead of the game on a Stephen O'Brien basket with just under 17 minutes remaining in the first half.
The remainder of the first half was a back-and-forth battle that saw both teams build as much as a six-point lead while battling through three ties and four more lead changes before Benedictine took over the lead with five minutes left before halftime.
In the second half, the Ravens got out the gate quickly, jumping ahead by 11 points just three minutes in.
Benedictine's lead grew to as much as 12 points before CMU cut it down to five, 56-51, with seven minutes remaining in the game.
Those five points would be all the closer CMU would get as Benedictine knocked down 15 of 18 free throws down the stretch to pull away for the 10-point win.
O'Brien anchored the Ravens offensive attack with a career high 19 points. John Harris Jr. was close behind with 18 points as he went 11 of 12 from the charity stripe, establishing a new single-game player high from the charity stripe. Charlie Wallrapp rounded out the Ravens leading scorers with 14 points, narrowly missing a double-double with 9 rebounds.
Benedictine's bench outscored CMU's 13-2 and Luke Norville and Jallen Messersmith each scored 5 points off the bench. Messersmith finished with a game-high 10 rebounds while also adding a season-high five blocks.
Benedictine hits the road to take on Baker University at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Baldwin City. The Ravens took the first meeting over the Wildcats 76-53 to open up their 2014 HAAC slate back on Jan. 9.