WATERVILLE — The Colby College men’s basketball team knew games would get tougher once they opened play in the New England Small College Athletic Conference. Still, the Mules found their seven-point halftime deficit to Trinity College on Saturday afternoon jarring.

“The reality is, this is the first time we’ve been challenged in a month. Down at the half for the first time all year,” Colby sophomore Noah Tyson said.

The challenge was a wakeup call for the Mules, who after playing their worst 10 minute stretch of basketball of the season played one of their best halves, putting the deficit quickly in the rearview mirror to pull away with a 91-77 win over the Bantams.

The win improved Colby, ranked 12th in the country in the latest d3hoops.com poll, to 13-0, 2-0 in NESCAC play. Trinity is now 10-5, 1-1 in league action.

Down 44-37 at the half, Colby started the second half quickly, with an Alex Dorion 3-pointer 16 seconds in. The Mules took the lead for good, 53-50, on a Tyson three with 14:30 to play.

“We want to be the aggressors for sure, and dictate our pace and our tempo on the game,” said Tyson, who celebrated his 20th birthday with a game-high 24 points and 14 rebounds. “I thought in the second half, we did that from start to stop. We hit a few threes and that was it. We started rolling.”

Colby scored the first 10 points of the game, and still led 29-23 10 minutes in, before everything fell apart. Trinity outscored the Mules, 21-8 over the final 10 minutes of the first half. The Bantams contested every shot and gave Colby’s strong perimeter shooters little space to create opportunities. In the locker room at halftime, there was no panic, Colby coach Damien Strahorn said, just resolve.

“I thought they did a great job in terms of how they were guarding our actions and taking things away from us. For us, it’s an important moment to go through that learning stage. They took control of the half,” Strahorn said.”We were embracing the moment and the chance to be tested, to have to deal with that adversity.”

Tied 50-50 five minutes into the second half, Tyson’s go-ahead three kicked off a 16-6 Colby run that effectively put the game out of reach. The Mules continued to pull away over the final 10 minutes, leading by as many as 17 points. Getting defensive stops allowed the Mules to run and speed up the tempo. The Mules had just nine turnovers in the game, with only one in the second half.

“That put us out in transition and makes it harder for their defense to get set,” Strahorn said. “Most importantly, I think our guys never doubted themselves, and it was a fantastic response for the last 20 minutes.”

Dorion and Will King each scored 18 points for Colby, and Matt Hanna had eight points. Donald Jorden led Trinity with 13 points and 15 boards. Kyle Padmore had 13 points for the Bantams.

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