The underdog role prevailed for the Maple Leafs as the Goshen College men’s basketball team upset the top team in the nation, the University of Saint Francis 89-80 in Crossroads League action last Saturday afternoon in Gunden Gymnasium.
The reigning NAIA Division II national champion, Saint Francis (11-1, 2-1 CL) came into the contest as the highest scoring offense in the nation, averaging over 95 points per contest. The Cougars lived up to those expectations early on, jumping out to a 9-0 lead just two minutes into the first half.
Goshen stayed within striking distance and then used an 11-0 run late in the half to take the lead with two minutes remaining in the opening frame. Christian Grider, a junior, led the charge throughout the run by scoring seven straight points. In the closing moments, the Cougars went on a 5-0 run of their own and regained a 34-32 lead heading into the locker room.
Coming out of the halftime break, the Maple Leafs caught fire, dominating on both ends of the court. An assortment of runs, including a 14-0 stretch midway through the frame, were largely due to Goshen shooting 57 percent from the floor alongside a stellar half-court zone defense. Conner Funkhouser, a junior, buried four of his six 3-pointers for the Maple Leafs early in the half to take the lead with 13:24 left in the contest. Goshen clinched the upset late by shooting a perfect 10-for-10 from the free-throw line and holding the Cougars to just 1-of-7 from the field in the final minute of play.
Funkhouser earned Crossroads League Player of the Week honors with his season-high 23 points, 18 of which came from behind the arc. Grider and Devin Heath-Granger, a junior, finished with double-doubles in the contest. Heath-Granger posted a season-high 18 points along with a career-high 10 assists, while also collecting five boards and two key steals that afternoon. Grider provided the needed spark off the bench for the Maple Leafs, adding 19 points and a career-high 10 rebounds. Grider also finished a perfect 7-of-7 from the charity stripe.
The win marks Goshen’s first in 13 contests against the nation’s top-ranked team and the second time in 49 tries against a top-five team in the NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball Coaches Poll.
The men looked to build off the historic victory, taking on rival Bethel College; however, the contest against the no. 17 ranked Pilots hadn’t finished by print deadline.