Men's Basketball: Kukura's Season-High Leads Raiders Past Heidelberg

JJ Kukura (Photo by: JT Higgins)
JJ Kukura (Photo by: JT Higgins)

ALLIANCE, Ohio – Mount Union's men's basketball team advanced to 7-2 overall and 3-1 in the OAC after a 75-63 win over Heidelberg (4-4,2-2) in an Ohio Athletic Conference matchup Saturday in the McPherson Academic and Athletic Complex.

The Raiders were led by senior JJ Kukura (Alliance/Alliance) who scored a season-high 35 points on 13-of-22 shooting and 5-of-10 from distance. The Raiders had nine guys in the scoring column with junior Tommy Stenger (North Canton/Hoover) the only other Raider in double-figures with 10. 

In the first half, the Raiders were led by Kukura and Stenger who posted 10 and eight points, respectively.  The Raiders got off to a sluggish start as the Student Princes opened an early 11-3 lead off of three three-point baskets and a jumper. Heidelberg doubled Mount Union 20-10 before the Raiders went on a 15-2 run to take the lead at 25-22 off a D'Vontay Friga (Cuyahoga Falls/Cuyahoga Falls) three point basket and a Tommy Stenger breakaway layup. The Student Princes came back with a 9-0 run of their own to regain the lead at 31-25. The Raiders finished with a 10-6 run over the last six minutes of the first half to head to the locker room down 37-35.

Within the first seven minutes of the second half, the game was tied four times before an Andrew Francesconi (Tallmadge/Tallmadge) gave the Raiders a 48-45 lead. With the game tied at 50, Mount Union went on a 9-0 run led by two Kukura layups and a Miles Griffin (Massillon/Jackson) three-point basket.  The Raiders maintained the lead up to 69-60 on another Kukura layup. With the lead 69-63 in favor the Raiders, Kukura hit the dagger from distance with just under a minute and a half remaining in the game. Kukura then sealed the game at the line making 3-of-4 free throws in the last minute to settle the score at 75-63.

The Raiders shot 27-of-58 for 47 percent and 12-of-29 from distance for 41 percent. The Raider defense held the Student Princes to just 41 percent (26-of-63) and 42 percent from distance (8-of-19). 

The Purple Raiders will next play in the Russ Devette/Holland Sentinel in Hope, Michigan against Hope and Olivet on December 29th and 30th at 7:30 p.m. and 1 p.m., respectively.