Special To The Daily Journal
Senior forward Gunner Erwin scored a career-high 29 points, including the game-winning basket, as Franklin College topped No. 17 Illinois Wesleyan 67-66 in a men’s basketball thriller Sunday afternoon at the Spurlock Center.
The Grizzlies improved to 5-0 at home and upped their overall record to 7-4. The Titans dropped to 8-3.
“We made plays when we needed to make plays,” Franklin coach Kerry Prather said. “It was a good solid win that was really a reflection of how much toughness we’ve developed as a team.
“I think it’s great Gunner gets the game winner.”
Erwin hit key shots all afternoon — most of his 3-point bombs keeping Illinois Wesleyan at bay — but none was as big as his driving layup on the left side of the north basket with less than a second left to give Franklin its decisive points.
His game-winning score came after driving most of the length of the floor past a stunned Titan defense.
Erwin hit 12 of 20 shots, including 5 of 10 attempts from 3-point range. He also grabbed six rebounds.
Junior guards Bailey Howard and J.T. Barton added 14 and 10 points, respectively, for the hosts.
Erwin’s heroics came after IWU rallied from a four-point deficit with just 1:15 remaining to take its one-point advantage at 66-65 with six seconds to go.
Junior forward Andrew Ziemnik hit two clutch free throws with six seconds left after teammate Pat Sodemann knocked down two foul shots with 47 seconds remaining.
Ziemnik earlier trimmed Franklin’s lead to three points by dropping in a free throw with 50 seconds to go.
Illinois Wesleyan trailed by as many as nine points at 48-39 with 14:52 left, but fought back to close to within one point at 53-52 at the 9:03 mark.
The contest then remained tight the rest of the way.