BOSTON, Mass.- Behind a career-high 21 points by Noah Cheney (Bend, Ore.), the Eastern Nazarene College men's basketball team earned an 81-77 win at Wheelock Wednesday evening in the first game of the 2017-18 season.
The Lions improve to 1-0 on the year with the victory while the Wildcats drop to 0-1 overall.
Josh Rice (Hanson, Mass.) finished with 16 points on 4-for-4 shooting from three-point range. Jacob Waldroop (Newland, N.C.) chipped in with 11 points and eight rebounds on the night. Brenndan Rogers (Hanson, Mass.) poured in 11 points while Andrew Mitchell (Campobello, S.C.) added seven points, six boards, and four assists.
The visitors raced out to an early seven-point advantage, 11-4, as Cheney nailed a three-pointer with 16:14 remaining in the first half.
Eastern Nazarene widened the margin to 11 with 10:47 left to play in the opening period on a basket by Trey'von Davis (Moore, S.C.), 22-11.
Wheelock clawed back to cut the deficit to 22-18 with 9:23 to go in the first frame as Kiwane Crowder drained a trey.
The Lions responded with seven straight points to reclaim an 11-point lead with 7:43 left to play in the half as Waldroop drilled a three-pointer.
Eastern Nazarene sported a 44-35 lead at the intermission after shooting 55.2% from the field and connecting on 50% of its attempts from three-point distance in the first half. Wheelock shot 45.2% from the floor in the opening frame and was limited to a pair of treys on 10 attempts.
The home side narrowed the gap to 53-51 with 12:15 remaining in the second stanza as Erick Hernandez connected on a jumper.
The visitors answered with seven points in a row to push their lead to 60-51 with 10:16 left to play on a bucket by TJ Vazquez (Weymouth, Mass.).
Wheelock leveled the contest at 74-74 with 2:07 to go in the game as Brendan Miller converted a pair of free throws. The Wildcats captured their first lead of the night with 1:02 remaining in regulation on a layup by Crowder, 76-74.
Eastern Nazarene reclaimed the lead as Cheney splashed a clutch three-pointer and sank two shots from the charity stripe with 13 seconds remaining to give the Lions a three-point advantage, 79-76.
After Wheelock cut the deficit to 79-77 with four seconds left to play on a made free throw by Crowder, Rice sealed the win with a pair of free throws.
The Lions finished with a field-goal percentage of 43.3% to go with 12-for-24 shooting from beyond the arc. The Wildcats shot 42.4% from the floor and 27.3% from long range.
Crowder paced Wheelock with 21 points while Miller and Hernandez both netted 16 points.
Up next, Eastern Nazarene heads to MIT for a non-conference clash November 18.