Trailing 66-41 with exactly 10 minutes left in the game, the Belmont Abbey men's basketball team exploded on a 25-4 run over the next five minutes to cut the lead down to four, but the Tornado had just enough offense to hold off the Crusaders 84-75 this afternoon inside the Wheeler Center.
King (8-2, 3-1), ranked 14th nationally, led for most of the game after the Crusaders last lead came with just 1:22 into the contest. King enjoyed a 42-25 lead at the half on the strength of 44 percent shooting while holding the Crusaders to a 29 percent outupt (9-31).
The second half saw the Crusaders outscore the Tornado 50-42 as Belmont Abbey turned up the pressure late to fight back to within four points twice late in the game.
Hunter LeVeau gave the visitors their largest lead of the game at the ten minute mark when his successful three pointer moved the Tornado edge to 66-41, but the Abbey clawed back by scoring 25 of the next 29 points to close the gap to 70-66 with 5:13 to go.
After LeVeau's jumper, Nicholas Fullard started the run with a layup, followed by three from Nick Hough, part of his career-high 27 points. He added two free throws on the next possession. King converted a jumper on its next two trips to stretch the lead to 70-48 with 7:51 to go, but the Abbey fired right back with 18 straight points to close the gap to 70-66.
Spencer Wilson knocked down a three pointer, followed by a free throw from Hough. After a missed King jumper, Ray Chen, who finished with 22 points, scored 14 of the Abbey's 18 during the run, as he started it by swishing a three pointer. Another empty Tornado possession turned in to a pair of free throws from Chen after King was called for a flagrant foul. Chen continued the flurry with a jumper on the next trip to close the gap to 11 at 70-59 with 6:09 to go.
A steal by Deion Lane on the next King trip started a fast break layup for Markel Pollard. Another King turnover turned into a three pointer by Chen, which cut the lead to 70-64 with 5:26 to go. Chen then punctuated the flurry with a steal and score to shrink the gap to 70-66.
King, which had not scored since the 7:51 mark, ended the drought with a jumper from Mack Owens. 1:15 later, Owens sank a pair of free throws to move the lead to 74-66 with 3:32 showing.
Belmont Abbey wasn't done, as it again closed the lead down to four with a 6-2 mini-run that was engineered by Chen, who sank two running jumpers around a Hough layup. Chen's final two of his 22 points cut the gap to 76-72 with 1:36 left.
That was as close as the Crusaders would get, however, as King closed the game on an 8-3 run, most of it coming from three throw line, to win by nine, 84-75.
Hough, whose previous career-high was 19 points in the loss to Wingate last month, clicked for 27 today, 18 in the second half, on 8-17 shooting from the floor, including 6-12 from three point range. Chen added 22 points, 19 in the second half. Lane added nine points and 11 rebounds.
The Crusaders shot 37 percent (26-70) from the field including 12-21 from beyond the arc.
Belmont Abbey is now off until New Years Eve when it returns to the Wheeler Center at 4:30 when welcoming Catawba.