Panthers fall to Rose, but seal No. 2 seed

Hanover College’s men’s basketball team lost to the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, 59-57, in a Senior Day clash between the top two teams in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, Saturday, Feb. 16, in Collier Arena.

Senior guard Ryan Nowicki (Westfield, Ind.) led Hanover with 18 points, while sophomore center Desmond Marks (Bloomington, Ind.) had 12 and senior guard Drake Hendricks (Muncie, Ind.) chipped in 10 points.

Julian Strickland netted a game-high 26 points to spark Rose-Hulman (22-3; 16-2 HCAC), which captured the school’s first regular-season league crown since the 1996-1997 campaign.

Despite the setback, Hanover snags the No. 2 seed in the conference’s six-team tournament. The Panthers will receive a first-round bye before tangling with either Transylvania University (Ky.) or the College of Mount St. Joseph (Ohio) in a semifinal tilt at 6 p.m., Friday, Feb. 22, in Terre Haute, Ind.

Hanover trailed by as many as eight points (17-9) in the first half, but - behind nine points from Nowicki and eight by Marks - roared back to build a 40-28 lead six minutes into the second period.

Strickland, who finished 9-of-9 from the field, scored 10 points in a six-minute span to help the Engineers trim the Panthers’ lead to one (43-42) with 8:12 to play.

The squads were never more than two possessions apart the rest of the way.

Jon Gerken converted a three-point play to knot the game at 45-45 with 7:24 left and Austin Weatherford hit twice from close range to nudge Rose-Hulman ahead 49-45 with five minutes on the clock.

The Engineers led 53-47 before Hendricks hit a pair of free throws and Nowicki had a three-point play to cut the Panthers’ deficit to 53-52 with 2:31 to go.

After two Rose-Hulman buckets, Nowicki scored again to keep Hanover within a possession (57-54) heading into the final minute.

Strickland and Gerken each went 1-of-2 from the line to give the Engineers a five-point lead (59-54) lead before Hendricks kept the Panthers alive with a three-pointer with :03 remaining.

Trailing 59-57, Hanover fouled to put Strickland at the line. Gunter pulled down the missed free throw, but a three-quarter-length attempt by sophomore guard Kyle James (Indianapolis, Ind.) was off the mark at the buzzer.

The Panthers finished the contest 19-of-56 from the field (33.9%), including a 6-of-27 effort from behind the three-point stripe (22.2%).

Rose-Hulman shot 48 percent (24-of-50) and earned a 34-31 advantage on the glass.

Marks grabbed a game-high nine boards and Nowicki had six to lead Hanover's effort.

Hanover vs. Rose-Hulman statistics