By Caleb Scott
ADA -- The Ohio Northern men's basketball team came out strong in the first half en route to a 77-74 victory over Heidelberg Wednesday afternoon at the ONU Sports Center.
The Polar Bears improve to 10-12 overall and 7-8 in the Ohio Athletic Conference, while the Student Princes fall to 11-11, 6-9.
Junior Aron Thress led the way for Northern with a game-high 25 points and a career-high 18 rebounds.
Junior Joey Hurless dished out three assists to give him a school record and NCAA Division III-leading 174 on the season, breaking ONU's single-season assist record of 171 set by Kevin Sensabaugh in 1998-99.
After falling behind 13-11, sophomore Nate Burger would score five quick points to give Northern the 16-13 lead with 11:18 remaining in the first half.
After Heidelberg answered with three points, the Polar Bears would go on a 12-3 run capped off by a three pointer from sophomore Ryan Geise to push their lead to 28-19 with 7:12 remaining in the first half.
From there, Ohio Northern would close the half out on a 12-5 run to extend the lead to 40-24 at the intermission after sophomore Grant Pepper rebounded his own missed shot and beat the halftime buzzer with a jumper.
After exchanging baskets on during the first several minutes of the second half, HU was able to string together an 11-3 run to take a 59-57 with 9:57 left in the contest.
From there Heidelberg was able to tie the contest on two separate occasions, but could never regain the lead as Northern finished the game hitting 12-of-13 free throws to seal the victory.
Thress connected on 15-of-17 free throw attempts, including 8-of-8 in the final eight minutes of regulation.
"We had a great first half," said head coach Kevin Byrne. "We need to finish a little better but I was proud of the effort we showed tonight. We got a break there at the end and we will take it."
Northern shot 22-of-58 (37.9 percent) from the field, including 8-of-24 (33.3 percent) from beyond the arc, while Heidelberg shot 28-of-76 (36.8 percent) from the field, including 9-of-22 (40.9 percent) from the 3-point line.
The Polar Bears won the rebounding battle by a 51-42 margin.
Northern will return to action Saturday afternoon as they travel to New Concord to take on the Muskies at 3 pm at Performance Court.