By Tim Glon
ADA — Junior Dominique Royal scored a career-high 22 points, including five straight in a key stretch in the final minute of play, to lead Ohio Northern past Muskingum 86-79 in an Ohio Athletic Conference men's basketball game Saturday afternoon at the ONU Sports Center.
The Polar Bears improve to 10-11 overall and are 6-8 in OAC play, while the Muskies fall to 1-20, 0-14.
Clinging to a 78-77 lead, Royal scored on an offensive rebound and was fouled with 51 seconds to play. He missed the free throw, but senior Taylor Kuhlman grabbed the rebound and fed Royal for a layup and another three-point chance with 35 seconds left.
Royal converted this opportunity and ONU's lead was 83-77.
Junior Branden Rushton then made three of free throws in the final 25 seconds to put the game away for ONU.
Muskingum was led by Dave Brown with 22 points, Logan Kimble with 20 points and Michael Klamo and Christian Keller with 12 points each.
The Muskies were on fire in the first half and built a 44-26 lead with 3:54 left in the first half.
But ONU would score the last nine points of the first half to cut the deficit to 47-39 at intermission.
A basket by Horstman at the 9:24 mark gave Northern a 64-63 lead.
Two Horstman free throws with 5:22 left to play gave the Polar Bears the lead for good at 76-75 and a pair of free throws by Kuhlman made it a 78-75 lead with 3:34 left.
Kimble scored with 1:58 left to pull the Muskies within 78-77, setting up Royal's late-game heroics.
"I'm proud of our guys for hanging in there when things were not going well in the first half," ONU head coach Kevin Byrne said. "This was a game that maybe wouldn't have gone our way earlier in the season, but we kept playing hard and stayed with the game plan. Guys that strruggled early stayed with it and would up having solid games.
"We are now just one game out of fourth place in the OAC, so we are still in solid position entering the final two weeks of the regular season."
Rushton's 10 points gives him 987 for his career and leaves him just 13 points away from becoming the 37th member of ONU's 1,000-Point Club.
Ohio Northern made 32 of 67 field goals for 51.6 percent, while Muskingum made 28-of-60 field goal attempts for 46.7 percent.
ONU edged MU 40-39 in the rebounding battle.
The Polar Bears will return to action on Wednesday with a 7:30 pm road tilt at Heidelberg.