HANOVER, Ind. – The Hanover men's basketball team will look to continue its strong start to Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference play this week with a pair of league games.
SETTING THE SCENE: The Panthers (4-2) will open the stretch at home with a 7:30 p.m. tip against Transylvania (Ky.) on Wednesday, Dec. 5. Hanover then heads to Bluffton this weekend for a 3 p.m. start Saturday, Dec. 8. All three teams enter the week with an overall winning percentage of at least .500.
CONFERENCE OPENER RECAP: The Blue and Red opened HCAC play in fashion last Saturday, defeating Franklin at home, 75-58. A sharp shooting second half led the Panthers, as they outscored the Grizzlies 41-22 over the final 20 minutes of play, making 51.7 percent of their field goal attempts in the process. Four players scored in double figures, as the team was led by senior Cam Fails' (Cincinnati, Ohio) 22 points.
FAILS NAMED PLAYER OF THE WEEK: The senior guard was tabbed the HCAC player of the week for the fourth time in his career this past Monday. In a two-game stretch last week, Fails averaged 20.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 3.5 steals per contest. The senior's week was highlighted by his season-high 22 points against Franklin, a game that also saw him set or tie season-best marks in assists (6), rebounds (5) and steals (5). He added 19 points and four rebounds in a three-point loss at Ohio Wesleyan last Wednesday.
NATION'S TOP DEFENSE: Hanover's success this season can be attributed to its defensive efforts. The Panthers currently lead NCAA Division III in scoring defense, allowing 56.8 points per game. The Blue and Red, which are one of just eight schools in the country allowing a sub-60 scoring average, have held their last four opponents under 60 points, with each team entering play above a 75 point-per-contest mark. Opponents are also shooting just .364 from the field, including .278 from behind the arc, as both marks put Hanover inside the top 30 nationally.
CAM CLIMBING CAREER SCORING LIST: After another strong scoring week, Fails has moved his way into 18th on the program's all-time scoring list, one that spans over 125 years. The senior currently has 1,300 points, which also places him inside the top five in program history for players in the in the 2000's. This season, Fails is averaging a team-high 17.5 points per game, while adding 4.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.8 steals per contest. He has also scored 18 or more points in each of the last five outings.
WILLIAMS NETS CAREER SCORING HIGH: Junior Kevin Williams (Edinburgh, Ind.) put together two strong performances last week, setting and then tying his career high in scoring with 12 points against OWU and Franklin. The junior forward made six-of-seven shots in both outings, improving his HCAC-leading season field goal percentage to .833. Williams' shooting clip is over 20 percentage points higher than the next closest HCAC player and the junior is adding four rebounds per game as well.
HIBBARD & THE HARP: Sophomore Isaac Hibbard (New Albany, Ind.) and freshman Zach Harp (Cincinnati, Ohio) have been key contributors to the Panther offense all season long. Hibbard is averaging 8.8 points per game, while also leading the team with 6.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists per contest. The sophomore's assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.5 also leads the conference and ranks 22nd nationally.
Harp returned to double figures this past Saturday, scoring 11 points on four-for-seven shooting, including a three-for-four effort from deep. The freshman is at 11.2 points per game this season, doing most of his dame from three-point land. Harp's three-point percentage of .559 ranks 17th in Division III and his 3.2 makes per game leads the HCAC.
SCOUTING TRANSYLVANIA: The Pioneers enter Wednesday's bout with a 3-3 overall mark and are coming off a 65-62 home win over HCAC-rival Bluffton last Saturday. Transylvania though, is 0-2 in true road games and 1-3 in all games played away from home this season.
As a team, Transy is averaging 70.0 points per game. Leading the team in scoring is senior Cooper Theobald at 12.8 points per game. Theobald also paces the Pioneers in rebounding, 5.7 per contest.
The all-time series has Transy with a slight edge, 34-33. Hanover though, has won four of the last five meetings, with three coming on last second shots. The Panthers have won three in a row at home, including a 93-56 triumph this past January.
SCOUTING BLUFFTON: The Beavers have matched HC's overall record so far, 4-2, but as mentioned earlier, fell at Transy in the conference-opening contest. The loss snapped what was a four-game winning streak for BU.
Bluffton will be at Earlham Wednesday night and enters the week with a scoring average of 75.8 points per game. Junior Andrew Renner leads the Beavers in all three main statistical categories, averaging a conference-high 21.7 points per game, as well as 8.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists per contest.
Hanover owns a 61-20 edge in the all-time series with Bluffton and has won seven straight meetings. Games between the two sides though have been tight recently, with HC's last two trips to Bluffton resulting in one-point victories, including last year when Fails scored as time expired. In fact, the last four overall meetings have been decided by 10 points or less.
Contact: Tyler Jester