HANOVER, Ind. – With the New Year upon us, the Hanover men's basketball team will look to continue its journey for its second straight HCAC championship by hosting Rose-Hulman Wednesday evening.
Hanover (8-3), who is off to a 3-1 start in HCAC play, will finish the regular season with 14 consecutive league games, starting with a 7:30 p.m. tip inside Collier Arena on Jan. 3, against the Fightin' Engineers.
THE TEAMS: The Panthers are off to another strong start in 2017-18, posting at least eight wins prior to January for the second straight year. Since the beginning of the 2016-17 campaign, HC is 17-4 overall and 7-1 in HCAC contests over the opening two months. The Blue and Red have also won their first home game in January eight straight years leading up to Wednesday's tip.
Hanover is currently receiving votes in the national D3hoops.com National Top 25 poll, which snaps a nine-week stretch with the team being in the rankings. The Panthers have been as high as No. 4 this season, the preseason poll, and spent an additional week inside the top five as well.
Offensively, HC is averaging 77.7 points per game, while also holding the HCAC's best scoring defense, conceding 65.4 per contest. The team is 2-0 at home this year, winning both contests by five points or less.
Rose-Hulman will enter Wednesday's game winners of four straight, and hold 5-6 overall and 3-1 HCAC records. The Fightin' Engineers have been off since Dec. 21, when they defeated Wabash at home, 76-65.
On the road, RHIT is 2-3 this season, but the Engineers are averaging close to nine more points per game, 79.0, away from home this year. They also found their groove offensively in the month of December, improving their field goal percentage from .408 to .497 and points per contest from 70.4 to 79.2.
LAST TIME OUT: Hanover is coming off its fourth win of 20 or more points, defeating OU-Chillicothe 93-54 in its tournament finale at the Wittenberg Kiwanis Holiday Classic on Dec. 30. The Blue and Red opened tournament play the day before with a 63-53 loss to nationally ranked Marietta (Ohio), but the 63 points allowed marked just the third time since 2014 the Pioneers were held under 70 points.
Defense has been the theme for the Panthers as of late, as the victory against OU-Chillicothe marked the fourth straight HC opponent to score less than 65 points. The offense also bounced back from a cold shooting performance the day prior with a .582 clip against the Hilltoppers.
Hanover was led by senior Wes McKinney (Batesville, Ind.), who made 7-of-11 field goal attempts for 17 points in just 17 minutes of action. McKinney was named to the all-tournament team, as he averaged 16.0 points and 11.0 rebounds during the two-game event.
Sophomore Blake Robertson (Greenfield, Ind.) netted 5-of-7 attempts from deep, recording a career best 15 points, while classmate Logan Ratts (Martinsville, Ind.) added 10 points. Freshman Connor Washburn (Indianapolis, Ind.) made all six of his field goal attempts for a career high 12 points.
UP NEXT: The Panthers will head back out on the road for their next contest, as they travel to face Manchester at 3 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 6.
Contact: Tyler Jester