BELOIT— Alec Fruin and Nacio Villarreal, dynamic scorers the entire season, raised the bar for themselves Monday night.
Fruin scored 37 points, including the game-winning basket with seven seconds left, and Villarreal added 34 in Turner’s 77-76 victory over Marshall.
The duo came in averaging 25 points each, but blew those numbers out of the water. Fruin scored 25 in the first half as the Trojans led 40-35, and when the defense switched its focus, Villarreal stepped up with 24 in the second half as 9-3 Turner overcame late mistakes.
The Trojans held a 10-point lead with seven minutes to play before Marshall, behind the dynamic play of Reece Lestikow, made a late charge to put the game in doubt.
The teams traded buckets for the remainder of the game, with neither team’s defense able to consistently get stops. A Villarreal trey put Turner up 71-67 with three minutes left, but Lestikow immediately answered with one of his own to get the margin back down to one.
Fruin’s shot in the lane made it 75-72 Trojans with 1:35 remaining, and Marshall was forced to foul after an empty possession. Villarreal missed two free throws with 49 seconds left, and after an offensive rebound, Fruin missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 34 seconds.
After forcing a Marshall miss, the Trojans made another gaffe, turning the ball over on an inbounds pass with 19 seconds left.
Lestikow sunk two clutch free throws with 12 seconds left to give Marshall a 75-74 lead, its first since leading 22-21 in the first half.
After the second shot went in, Fruin took the ball out, immediately got the pass back and cruised down the court, finishing with a virtually uncontested layup for the go-ahead bucket.
“I knew right there I wasn’t going to settle for a jump shot,” Fruin said. “I had a lot of success getting to the rim all night, and that’s what I tried to do. I thought one of their guys would try to step up and take a charge, but nobody did.”
After a Marshall timeout with seven seconds, Lestikow was called for traveling, giving the ball back to Turner with .7 seconds remaining and effectively ending the game.
Turner coach Ken Watkins said the team’s less-than-stellar finish (besides Fruin’s final shot) showed it still has plenty to work on.
“We were very fortunate to win this game,” Watkins said. “We took not listening to a whole new level tonight, and elite teams don’t do that. It’s just frustrating.”
Watkins said Fruin’s performance was typically efficient.
“In the first half, they were playing a 1-3 with a guy chasing Nacio,” Watkins said. ‘We were able to fill the gaps with our ‘Kentucky’ offense and we got a ton of shots right at the rim. In the second half, they changed things up and Nacio stepped up and hit a lot of big shots for us.”
Fruin said he was happy to take what the defense gave him.
“My strength is taking it to the basket and using my athleticism,” Fruin said. “I can shoot the three if that’s what they are giving to me, but I’m happy to fill the gaps if that’s what the defense is giving us.”
The Trojans will host a terrific McFarland team Friday night. The Spartans are 6-0 in Rock Valley Conference play and 8-2 overall.
“I’m sure they play really fundamentally strong and are a solid defensive team,” Fruin said.