INDIANOLA, Iowa -- The Simpson men's basketball team nearly erased an 18-point, second-half deficit but couldn't come up with the game-tying shot in the final seconds as Wartburg escaped with a 76-72 win in the first round of the Iowa Conference Tournament on Tuesday.
Simpson mounted a furious comeback in the final 11 minutes and had a chance to force overtime on its final possession with 15.1 seconds left, but Tyler Stumbo's deep 3 from the top of the key went off the mark and Wartburg sealed the win at the free throw line.
Cam Kickbush scored a game-high 23 points for the Knights (17-9), who advance to play top-seeded Nebraska Wesleyan in the semifinal round Thursday. Jaran Sabus added 17 points.
Trailing 65-47 with 10:55 to play, Simpson's reserves mounted a 10-0 run to spark the comeback. Kyle Wagner nailed a 3, Adam Reiter hammered a dunk and Riordan made a layup to make it 65-57 with 8:44 left.
A pair of layups by Stumbo and a 3 by Amsbaugh pulled Simpson within 72-70 with 1:43 left. Josh Gehling made a layup to stretch the lead to four, but Amsbaugh found Riordan on a pretty backdoor cut to make it a one-possession game.
Simpson came up with a defensive stop on the next trip and called timeout. Stumbo took the shot with 5 seconds left and Kickbush secured the board, hitting a pair of free throws with just over 1 second left to ice it.
Reiter added 11 points and Wagner had eight for Simpson. The Storm were without the services of defensive stopper John Barbee, who missed the game due to illness.
Wartburg led for all but 59 seconds of the game when a pair of Riordan free throws tied the game at 37 with 1:36 left in the first half. Ryan Stulken gave the lead back to Wartburg on a dunk on the ensuing possession and the Knights led the rest of the way.
The Knights led by as many as 14 in the first half before Simpson cut it to seven by intermission. Wartburg then opened the second half on a 17-6 run to open its largest lead of the game.
Conor Riordan -- 17 points, 3 assists, 2 steals
Sam Amsbaugh -- 16 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists
Tyler Stumbo -- 16 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist
Adam Reiter -- 11 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal