INDIANOLA, Iowa – A furious second-half surge had the makings of an epic comeback, but in the end, it wasn't meant to be for the Simpson men's basketball team.
Jordan Cannon had 29 points and Wartburg held on to beat Simpson 95-87 despite nearly losing a 26-point, second-half lead Wednesday night at Cowles Fieldhouse.
A cold first half by Simpson allowed the visitors to seize control early in the game, and the Knights made just enough plays down the stretch to close it out.
"We had a chance to get back in it but it was too much of an uphill climb," head coach Brad Bjorkgren said.
Cannon went 10-for-16 from the floor and Nick Webber had 16 points for the Knights (12-8, 5-4 Iowa Conference), who won their third in a row.
Dillon Gretzky scored 15 of his 16 points in the second half, leading the comeback for the Storm (12-8, 5-4). Sam Amsbaugh had 15 points and seven rebounds, Ryan Skaar had 14 points and DJ Dafney provided energy on both ends of the floor, finishing with 12 points and seven boards.
Simpson trailed 58-32 early in the second half, but didn't throw in the towel. Instead, the Storm picked up the defensive pressure and capitalized off a frenetic pace that helped cut the lead to as few as six in the final minutes.
The momentum reached its peak when Simpson scored seven straight, capped off by a transition 3 from Sabonis Smith that made it 70-61 with 7:40 to play. Austin Turner stole the ensuing inbounds and appeared to cut the lead to seven on an uncontested layup, but a traveling call nullified the bucket.
Wartburg scored the next six points, taking the air out of the fieldhouse.
"We can't let teams come out with more energy and play with their backs against the wall," Bjorkgren said. "We have to be the aggressors right from the start."
Jamie Montgomery gave Simpson one last gasp when he knocked down back-to-back left corner 3s to make it 93-87 with 19 seconds left. Cannon missed two free throws to make it interesting, but a deep, desperation heave by Montgomery went off the mark to end the threat. Cam Kickbush made two free throws for the final margin.
"We dug ourselves a hole early," Bjorkgren said. "It was a combination of them hitting shots and us not guarding."
Simpson trailed 47-32 at the break and saw the deficit grow to 26 thanks to an 11-0 Wartburg run to start the second half. Leif Olson stopped the run with a jumper from the top of the key, sparking a 10-0 Simpson run.
Up next: Simpson hosts Central on Saturday. The Dutch (14-6, 5-4) beat Luther 84-71 on Wednesday.