FRANKLIN, Ind. – It was a monumental night inside the Spurlock Center on Friday (Nov. 9), as Franklin men's basketball head coach Kerry Prather recorded his 500th career victory in the Grizzlies' season-opening 84-77 win over Otterbein University.
Sophomore Danny Goggans finished with 22 points and seven rebounds to lead the Grizzlies (1-0) in both categories. Four Franklin players reached double-digit point totals and the team shot 57.1 percent (28-for-49) from the floor. Defensively, the Grizzlies limited the Cardinals (0-1) to 42.6 percent (26-for-61) from the field and 32.4 percent (12-for-37) from long range, holding off a late Otterbeing charge to seal the win.
"We picked up where we left off last year defensively," Prather said after the game. "I thought we made a lot of progress on defense and that carried over to tonight with the guys that returned. We had a stretch in the first half where we made some unforced errors but our defense came up with stops when we needed them the most. We came to win tonight and getting the first one was mission number one tonight."
Early on, the Grizzlies jumped out to an early lead before the offense went through a dry patch. The Grizzlies managed just one free throw over a 4:32 stretch before a Colin Yorkjumper snapped the cold streak and made it 20-16 Otterbein with 10:33 to go in the opening half. Franklin trailed by as many as seven in the opening half, but a 9-1 run flipped momentum and a Kale Morris three-pointer put the hosts back on top at 27-26 with 7:20 left in the half.
The Grizzlies couldn't miss the rest of the half, growing their lead to 45-37 at the break. The Grizzlies connected on 73.1 percent (19-for-26) of their first half field goals, missing just three field goals over the final seven minutes of play.
Franklin extended their lead to double figures early in the second half, but Otterbein responded with a run of their own to get within three at 53-50 just five minutes into the period. But for every run the Cardinals had, the Grizzlies had an answer. With the Franklin lead at two with under four minutes to play, Sam Gutierrez buried a long three-pointer to restore a two-possession lead. Otterbein went cold over the final four minutes of play, managing just one field goal down the stretch.
Gutierrez finished with 18 points while Jordan Anderson and Kyle Meyer also hit double digits with 15 and 10 points, respectively. Rebounds were 35-31 in Otterbein's favor while Franklin held a slim 17-15 advantage in the turnover battle. The Grizzlies made it a mission to get to the bucket, out-scoring their opponents 32-24 in the paint.
When the dust settled and a post-game celebration was over, it gave the 36th-year head coach one last chance to reflect on the journey to his milestone victory.
"You would be silly to not reflect on what a great experience this has been," Prather said with a smile. "This is a great community and a great school, and nobody stays in one place for that long anymore. We've had our ups and downs along the way. We've enjoyed the highs and weathered the lows, but we feel like this is the start of another real good run with this group of players."