HANOVER, Ind. – The journey for a second straight HCAC Tournament championship and NCAA National Tournament appearance for the Hanover men's basketball team begins with a mid-week, opening round contest against Bluffton.
The third-seeded Panthers (19-6, 14-4 HCAC) will host the sixth-seeded Beavers (11-14, 8-10 HCAC), inside Collier Arena, at 6 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 20.
BACK-TO-BACK CHAMPS: Hanover defeated Defiance this past Saturday, 78-59, and after an overtime loss by Mt. St. Joseph at Earlham, the Panthers secured a share of their second straight HCAC regular season title and 20th conference championship in program history. Rose-Hulman would go on to win later in the afternoon to join HC and MSJ atop the standings.
The Fightin' Engineers won the tiebreaker, going 3-1 against the other two champions, earning them the right to host the semifinal and championship rounds this weekend. MSJ's 2-2 record against HC and RHIT was good enough to secure the No. 2 seed and the other first round bye.
The last time Hanover won back-to-back regular season titles was from 2001-2005, as the squad won four consecutive crowns. The 2004-05 and 2003-04 seasons were also the last time HC earned at least a share of the regular season title and won the tournament title in consecutive years.
20 WINS IN SIGHT: A Hanover win Tuesday night would give the squad its second straight season with 20-plus wins, a feat that has been accomplished just 10 times in the programs 118-year history. The 45 combined wins between the 16-17 and 17-18 seasons is currently tied for the eighth most in consecutive seasons in school history. The Panthers have topped 40 wins in back-to-back campaigns on 17 occasions, including three occurrences over 50.
FEBRUARY BELONGS TO HANOVER: Hanover has always seemed to play its best basketball at the end of the season, producing a 12-1 record in the month of February over the past two seasons. Since 2010, HC has a 41-18 mark in February, a .695 winning percentage. The team has also made it to four HCAC Tournament championship games during the stretch.
CLOSE CALLS WITH BLUFFTON: Hanover won both of the regular season meetings with Bluffton, but both games were decided by five points or less. In fact, four of the last five games between HC and BU have been decided by five points or less.
In the last meeting at Bluffton, on Jan. 27, junior Cam Fails (Mason, Ohio) went the length of the floor to net a contested game-winning layup at the buzzer, sending HC to a 71-70 victory. The first game between the two sides, in Hanover, on Dec. 9, 2017, saw the second half played within a nine-point margin, as the Panthers held on for a late 59-54 triumph.
The Panthers lead the overall series with the Beavers, 60-20, and have won the past six overall meetings and the last four inside Collier Arena.
PANTHERS POST TOP 20 STATISTICAL MARKS: The Blue and Red are currently ranked inside the top 20 in the country in four statistical categories, including personal fouls per game (14.0) and field goal percentage (.502), which rank sixth and eighth respectively. Hanover is also 19th in Division III in scoring defense (65.0) and scoring margin (+12.3). All four statistical marks are in the top two of the HCAC as well.
HOME SWEET HANOVER: The Panthers, winners of 15 of their last 17 games inside Collier Arena, have posted an 8-2 mark at home this season. In 10 home outings this year, HC is averaging 78.4 points per game on 51.6 percent shooting. The Blue and Red, who have held four teams to under 60 points at home, are outscoring their opponents by an average margin of 11.8 points per game inside Collier Arena.
Contact: Tyler Jester