Panthers looking to build momentum with late-season meeting at Earlham

Colin Smith

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HANOVER, Ind. -- With two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Hanover men's basketball team looks to keep pace near the top of the HCAC standings when they travel to Earlham Wednesday evening.

The Panthers (16-5, 11-3 HCAC) will conclude the road portion of their 2017-18 regular season schedule with a 7:30 p.m. tip, at Earlham, Feb. 7.

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THE TEAMS: Hanover won seven-of-nine games in January, earning them a nomination for HeroSports Division III National Team of the Month. The Panthers have won nine of their last 11, improving them to 16-5 overall and 11-3 in HCAC play, just one game back from Rose-Hulman for the top spot in the league standings.

Prior to Monday's poll coming out, the Blue and Red had at least received votes in the D3hoops.com National Top 25 poll for 16 straight weeks, including nine straight editions inside the top 25. Hanover spent two weeks earlier this season in the top five of the poll as well.

Hanover continues to rank among the nation's best in multiple statistical categories, including scoring defense. The Panthers have held eight opponents to under 60 points this year and are allowing just 65.0 points per game, ranking first in the HCAC and 16th nationally. The Panthers are also inside the top 25 in country in field goal percentage (.495) and scoring margin (+12.2).

Earlham has split its last four outings, winning two straight prior to dropping its last two games by double digits to Transylvania and Franklin. Overall, EC is 6-15, while also holding a 4-10 mark in HCAC action. In home games this year, EC is 3-7, as they dropped their last outing to Franklin, 90-80.

The Quakers have relied on a steady offense for most of the season, tallying 75.4 points per game. Unfortunately for Earlham, they are allowing close to 85 points per contest. Offensively, Elijah Wilson-Thomas and Darrell Hutchison Jr. are scoring in double figures, averaging 17.3 and 14.4 points, respectively.

THE SERIES: Hanover has won the last 11 meetings against Earlham and leads the all-times series, 80-40. A win Wednesday would tie HC's longest winning streak all-time against the Quakers, a mark they set from 1976-82. During the 11-game winning streak, the Panthers have an average margin of victory of 24.5 points per game, and won the first meeting this season, at home, 90-54.

LAST TIME OUT: For the second straight season, Hanover defeated Anderson in the closing seconds at home, this time rallying for an 80-77 triumph. The Panthers, who led for most of the game, found themselves down in the final minute of play. Junior Nick White (New Albany, Ind.) then grabbed an offensive rebound and converted on a three-point play, while senior Wes McKinney (Batesville, Ind.) added two free throws later on, giving HC the final five points in the contest.

McKinney led the team with 20 points, giving him his eighth game this season with at least 20 in the scoring column. White added 14 points and a team high eight rebounds in the win.

In a game that saw HC's leading scorer play only two minutes, the Blue and Red had its most balanced scoring effort of the season, with five players tallying double-digit totals. Freshman Isaac Hibbard (New Albany, Ind.) recorded a career high 18 points, on 7-of-9 shooting, while senior Colin Smith (Cincinnati, Ohio) and sophomore Logan Ratts (Martinsville, Ind.) each added 12 points.

UP NEXT: Hanover will return home to close out the regular season with three straight games inside Collier Arena. Kicking off the home stand will be a date with Manchester at 3 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 7.

Contact: Tyler Jester

jestert@hanover.edu