Bulldog coach Matt Woodley encouraged by effort in 70-67 loss.
Young teams need time to find their way.
For the Truman State Bulldogs, their way may have been found in Wednesday night's final 14 minutes.
With a lineup for two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior, the Bulldogs raced back from a 10-point hole and got within one point before falling short against Upper Iowa at Pershing Arena, 70-67.
It was the team's second loss - both at home - to open the season, but head coach Matt Woodley left the gym encouraged by what he saw. Woodley ran out a lineup of true freshmen Cory Myers and Cole Myers, sophomores Seth Jackson and Tyler Anderson and junior Mike Carlson to spark a spirited comeback effort in the second half.
"I think I found something with that lineup," Woodley said. "Those guys proved to me they are the five guys that play the hardest, that would do the execution."
The Bulldogs flipped a 49-39 deficit into a near victory thanks to a strong defensive effort, offensive execution and care for the basketball. Truman didn't turn the ball over in the final 14 minutes after giving it away nine times in the previous 26, and forced Upper Iowa into seven turnovers during that span.
Truman (0-2 overall) was down 56-47 with 6:51 to go before Carlson and Jackson each hit a pair of free throws around a three-pointer by Cole Myers.
Later, with Upper Iowa leading 63-59, Jackson hit a runner and the Bulldog defense forced a turnover with 40 seconds left. Myers drove hard to the basket and drew a foul, but hit just 1-of-2 at the line with 31.5 remaining to make it 63-62.
Truman sent Upper Iowa to the line on its next two possessions and the Peacocks were perfect to hold their lead.
Down 68-64, Carlson drained a three with 2.4 seconds to go to give Truman hope. Upper Iowa's Jake Hughes drained both free throws, and Carlson stepped out of bounds while attempting a three-quarter-court desperation shot to end the game.
The Bulldogs will look back at the game as one they let get away at the free throw line, where they made just 11-of-22. Upper Iowa wasn't much better, at 14-of-23, but the three shots accounted for the difference on the scoreboard.
Truman shot just 44 percent from the field in the first half and Upper Iowa head coach Brian Dolan credited his team's defensive effort. He said the teams run similar offensive systems, giving the Peacocks an idea of what they were looking for.
"We knew we had to win this game on the defensive end," Dolan said.
Carlson led Truman with his second 20-plus scoring game of the season, with 20 points and a team-high nine rebounds.
"He's playing with a lot of confidence right now," Woodley said.
The Bulldogs also got a solid bounceback game from Jackson, who was limited by foul trouble in the opener. He scored 17 points and dished out four assists.
"He's bought in," Woodley said. "What I saw out of Seth tonight is what I expect out of him every night."
Anderson had seven rebounds. Cole Myers had 10 points.
Sam Elgin led Upper Iowa with 16 points and seven rebounds.
Truman visits Indiana State for an exhibition game Saturday before returning to regular season play Monday at home against Central Christian College.