Second half struggles send Panthers to 70-69 setback at MSJ

Ryan Cloncs

CINCINNATI – On a night when the top three teams in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference standings lost on the road, the Hanover men's basketball team fell victim to nine second half three-pointers by Mt. St. Joseph in a 70-69 setback.

With Rose-Hulman and Transylvania also falling on the road, Hanover (18-6) still has a one-game lead in the HCAC standings at 13-4 and will close out the regular season at Defiance this weekend looking for the outright regular season title.

The Lions (8-16, 6-11 HCAC) made 9-of-11 (.818) attempts from behind the arc in the second half, while posting an overall shooting clip of .630 (17-27) in the final 20 minutes. Mount St. Joseph rallied from a double-digit deficit in the second half, a frame it would outscore HC 47-32.

Still leading by 13 points with just under 14 minutes to play, the Panthers went on a nearly five-minute scoring drought as MSJ produced a 21-2 run. The Lions then led 56-50 with 9:35 remaining.

Down by six points, 68-62, with 3:27 left to play, free throws from junior Kevin Williams (Edinburgh, Ind.) and sophomore Isaac Hibbard (New Albany, Ind.), along with a trey by junior Ryan Cloncs (Danville, Ky.), had HC trailing 70-68 as 21 seconds showed on the clock. Cloncs would score eight of his 11 bench points in the first half, with the late jumper being his only basket over the final 20 minutes.

Mount St. Joseph would miss the front-end of a one-and-one situation with nine seconds remaining but the Blue and Red's coast-to-coast attempt to tie the game fell short as time expired.

Hibbard paced the Panthers with 17 points, 14 in the second half, as he netted three shots from behind the arc. The sophomore also led HC with eight rebounds.

Cloncs, classmate Blake Robertson (Greenfield, Ind.) and freshman Matt Weimer (Georgetown, Ind.) combined for 27 first half points, on 10-of-15 shooting, as HC led 36-23 at the break. Robertson and Weimer had nine and eight points at halftime, respectively, but were both shutout of the scoring column over the final 20 minutes.

Senior Cam Fails (Cincinnati, Ohio), the HCAC's leading scorer, was plagued with early foul troubles that had him scoreless at halftime. The senior added six points in the second half and led HC with five assists and three steals Wednesday.

Mount St. Joseph's hot-shooting second half led to an overall field goal percentage of .500 (26-52), as the Lions also made 12-of-20 (.600) tries from deep. Hanover finished with a .446 shooting clip and made six of its nine three-pointers in the first half.

The Panthers did enjoy advantages in most ancillary stats, including rebounds (34-28), second chance points (11-3), points in the paint (24-16) and bench points (23-8).

Hanover is set to close out the regular season at 3 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 16, with a road contest at Defiance.

Contact: Tyler Jester