Men's basketball heads to Bluffton Saturday

Isaac Hibbard dribbling the ball

HANOVER, Ind. - Following a convincing win Wednesday night at home, the Hanover men's basketball team will look for its seventh straight win as the Panthers travel to Bluffton Saturday afternoon. 

Hanover (14-4, 9-2 HCAC) and Bluffton will meet for the second time this season Jan. 27 at 3 p.m. in the Sommer Center.


THE TEAMS: The Panthers won for the sixth straight time Wednesday defeating visiting Transylvania 93-56 in Collier Arena. With the win, and Rose-Hulman's win over Mount St. Joseph, the Blue and Red are now tied with both schools atop the HCAC standings at 9-2, and own the best overall record in the league. 

The Panthers, who are currently receiving votes in the 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 15 straight polls, also spent additional week in the top five earlier this season.

Hanover continues to rank highly in multiple NCAA statistical categories. The Panthers rank in the top 15 in country in scoring margin (14th, +14.1), field goal percentage (15th, 49.6%) and scoring defense (12th, 63.8 ppg). During the team's six-game winning streak, the Blue and Red are shooting 52.2% and limiting opponents to only 59.8 points per game. In addition, the Panthers have also out-scored their opponents by 20.0 points over that span. 

Bluffton (8-10, 5-6 HCAC) has dropped its last two games after winning three straight, including a 73-70 win at Rose-Hulman. Of the Beavers' eight wins this season, six have come at home. Bluffton is 3-2 in home HCAC contests and defeated Manchester and Defiance in their last two games in the Sommer Center. The Beavers last played Earlham Wednesday evening and lost 76-63 on the road.

Bluffton is the lowest scoring team in the HCAC this year averaging 68.9 points per game, but also rank third in the league in defensive scoring allowing only 69.6 points per contest. Three players are currently scoring in double figures led by Kevin Christie. The senior guard leads the team with 15.7 points and 4.4 assists per game. 

THE SERIES: In the last 20 meetings between the two teams, Hanover owns a 15-5 lead over Bluffton. The Panthers have won six straight with the last win by the Beavers coming in a 103-102 triple-overtime game at Bluffton during the 2014-15 season. In games played in Ohio, the Blue and Red are 8-1 in their last nine games, including a 65-64 win last year. Despite shooting only 37.7% in the first meeting this year, Hanover held on for a 59-54 win in Collier Arena back on December 9. 

LAST TIME OUT: The Panthers used a 15-6 run at the end of the first half Wednesday against Transylvania and didn't look back en-route to a 93-56 win over the Pioneers to split the pair of regular season match-ups between the two teams. 

Hanover made a season-high 33 free throws led by junior Cam Fails (Mason, Ohio) and senior Wes McKinney (Batesville, Ind.), who combined to make 19 of 20 at the charity stripe. Fails finished with a game-high 23 points to give him 48 points in his last two outings. 

McKinney scored 20 points to give him seven games this year with 20 or more points, while junior Nick White (New Albany, Ind.) also finished in double figures with 10 points to go along with a game-high seven rebounds. 

UP NEXT: The Panthers will go back on the road Wednesday, Jan. 31 when they travel to Terre Haute, Ind. to play Rose-Hulman. The two teams are scheduled to complete their season series at 7:30 p.m. in Hulbert Arena.

Contact: Mike Pritchard