Panthers primed for showdown at MSJ Wednesday evening

Nick White

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HANOVER, Ind. – The Hanover men's basketball team will look to extend its current three-game winning streak as they wrap up the first round of conference play at Mt. St. Joseph Wednesday evening.

The Panthers (11-4, 6-2 HCAC) and Lions, who will be meeting for the first time since the 2016-17 HCAC Tournament Championship, are set to tip off at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

THE TEAMS: Since dropping a two-point decision to Rose-Hulman, Hanover has won three straight, with two of the victories coming on the road at Manchester and Anderson. The Blue and Red's current wave of success on the court has them tied for the best overall record in the conference with Mt. St. Joseph and Transylvania.

The Panthers, who are currently receiving votes in the D3hoops.com National Top 25 poll, have been ranked as high as No. 4 this year, which came in the preseason edition. The team, which as of Monday has at least received national votes for 14 straight polls, also spent additional week in the top five earlier this season. 

Hanover is averaging 78.1 points per game this year, but defense has been the story of late, as HC has held six of its last eight opponents to under 70 points, including four teams to under 55 points. Despite allowing 74 points to Anderson last time out, the Blue and Red still held the Ravens to 12 points under their season scoring average. Overall, HC is allowing 65.8 points per game, which is second in the HCAC and 25th nationally.

The Lions currently hold the conference's best defensive scoring average, allowing 65.5 points per game. Since starting the season 1-3, MSJ has won 10 of its last 11 overall, currently holding an 11-4 mark. The team is also unbeaten in conference play, logging an 8-0 record.

To go along with its defensive effort, Mt. St. Joseph has also been one of the league's most efficient offensive units. The Lions have the third best field goal percentage in the HCAC at .507, and are averaging 73.9 points per game. MSJ also leads the HCAC in turnovers, giving away 11.4 per outing.

THE SERIES: The Panthers hold the advantage in the overall series history, 30-7, and have won each of the last two meetings, including a 58-51 home win in last season's conference tournament championship and a 72-64 triumph at MSJ last February to secure the regular season crown outright. Prior to last season's regular season victory, HC had dropped three straight to MSJ in Cincinnati, Ohio.

LAST TIME OUT: Hanover opened its game at Anderson last Saturday making seven of its first eight field goal attempts to secure an early 15-3 advantage. The Blue and Red never trailed en route to an 81-74 win.

Senior Wes McKinney (Batesville, Ind.) led four players in double figures for HC with a season high 28 points. McKinney's play was highlighted by an individual 12-point run in the second half to help push the lead back to double digits.

Tying a season high with 23 points was junior Cam Fails (Mason, Ohio), as his scoring efforts gave HC two 20-point scorers for just the second time this season. Fails also posted three steals, giving him multiple swipes in seven straight games.

Adding double-digit scoring performances were junior Nick White (New Albany, Ind.) and senior Colin Smith (Cincinnati, Ohio), who had 12 and 10 points respectively. White and Smith combined to shoot 9-of-11 from the field.

UP NEXT: The Panthers will return to Collier Arena to kick off a brief two-game home stand this Saturday afternoon. Hanover will welcome Franklin for a 2 p.m. tip to start a men-women doubleheader.

Contact: Tyler Jester

jestert@hanover.edu