Men's basketball meets MSJ in HCAC Semifinal Friday

Cam Fails

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HANOVER, Ind. – The quest for a second straight HCAC Tournament title continues for the Hanover men's basketball team Friday, Feb. 23, as they square off with Mt. St. Joseph in the semifinal round, hosted by Rose-Hulman.

Hanover, MSJ and RHIT all shared the HCAC regular season crown, but due to head-to-head tiebreakers, the Panthers are Lions were slated as the third and second seeds, respectively, and will tip shortly after the RHIT-Anderson semifinal game Friday with a 4 p.m. approximate start.

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McKINNEY MAKES SECOND STRAIGHT ACADEMIC ALL-DISTRICT TEAM: Announced by CoSIDA Thursday afternoon, senior Wes McKinney (Batesville, Ind.) was one of five players to earn first team academic honors in the organization's seventh district (Indiana, Illinois, Ohio). McKinney has been named to the CoSIDA academic all-district team for the second straight year and is now eligible for the organization's coveted all-American honor. As a junior, McKinney was tabbed a second team academic All-American by CoSIDA.

TWO IS BETTER THAN ONE: Some things are just better in pairs, and the Hanover men's basketball team will look to cap off a season full of back-to-back accolades this weekend. The Panthers' co-championship in the HCAC regular season gave them two straight years with the title, and Tuesday's HCAC Tournament Opening Round win over Bluffton also gave the squad back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time in over a decade. The Blue and Red could complete the trifecta this weekend by winning their second straight HCAC Tournament championship, sending them back to the NCAA Division III National Tournament.

FEBRUARY BELONGS TO HANOVER: The Panthers always seem to be playing some of their best basketball at the end of the season, producing a 13-1 record during February games over the past two years. Since 2010, HC has produced a 42-18 mark in the second month of the New Year, which is a .700 winning percentage. Heading into this season, the team had also made it to four of the last seven HCAC Tournament championship games.

FAMILIAR FOE IN LIONS: Hanover and Mt. St. Joseph's meeting Friday will be their sixth since the calendar turned to 2017, with the Panthers currently holding a 3-2 advantage. The Lions however, have bookended the recent stretch of games, winning the first meeting last season and the most recent outing, both of which came at HC's Collier Arena. Friday will also be a rematch of last season's conference tournament championship, which Hanover won, at home, 58-51.

COACHING CONNECTIONS AND MORE: Hanover and MSJ head coaches, Jon Miller ('97) and Toby Carrigan ('98), were teammates on the Panther basketball squad in the late 90's. The two have faced each other at their respective institutions 15 times prior to Friday, with Miller's side coming out on top nine times. The Blue and Red also have a pair of players from the Greater Cincinnati area in senior Colin Smith (Cincinnati, Ohio) and junior Cam Fails (Mason, Ohio). MSJ also has a player from the local Hanover area, with senior Tyler Manaugh playing for nearby Madison High School.

TOP STATISTICAL TEAMS: The Panthers and Lions boast some of the best statistical marks not only in the HCAC this season, but also in NCAA Division III. Both sides are among the top 10 in the country in field goal percentage, with HC leading the conference and ranking sixth in the nation at .507. The two sides are also getting it done defensively, ranking one and two in the conference in scoring defense. The Panthers have conceded a little over 65 points per game, good enough for a top 25 ranking in the NCAA.

McKINNEY CLUTCH IN ELIMINATION GAMES: McKinney has been nothing short of stellar over the past seven "elimination" games, three HCAC and four NCAA Tournament contests, averaging 20.7 points and 7.3 rebounds since the start of the 2016-17 campaign. After a 22-point effort against Bluffton Tuesday, the senior has scored 20 or more points in three straight postseason games, including the NCAA Sweet 16 and Elite Eight a year ago.

Contact: Tyler Jester

jestert@hanover.edu