No. 22 Men's basketball earns first HCAC regular-season title in 12 seasons; defeats MSJ 72-64
CINCINNATI, Ohio – For the first time in more than a decade, the No. 22 Hanover men’s basketball team will finish alone atop the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference standings as a 72-64 road win at Mount St. Joseph Wednesday evening secured the conference regular-season championship for the Blue and Red.
The Panthers (20-3, 15-2 HCAC) avenge a 76-73 home loss earlier this season to the Lions by outscoring MSJ 12-4 in the final 1:57 of the contest. With the scored tied at 60-all with 1:57 remaining, HC relied on its free-throw shooting to secure the victory.
Hanover came into the game ranked ninth in the conference in free-throw shooting percentage, at just above 68 percent. The Blue and Red proceeded to make all 10 shots from the charity stripe down the stretch to pick up the victory. Hanover made 23-of-29 (.793) attempts from the foul line in the full contest.
Four players scored in double figures for HC, including sophomore Cam Fails (Mason, Ohio), who posted a team high 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting. Fails also grabbed a career high six rebounds, while adding a team high two steals.
Junior Wes McKinney (Batesville, Ind.) posted his HCAC-leading ninth double-double of the season, totaling 11 points and 10 rebounds. Senior Corey Muchmore (Cincinnati, Ohio) continued his strong play of late, recording 18 points and eight rebounds.
Junior Levi Buck (Pendleton, Ind.) made 4-of-5 attempts from the field while also knocking down 8-of-10 shots from the charity stripe, accumulating 17 points in the contest. Buck also tied classmate Colin Smith (Cincinnati, Ohio) for the team high in assists with two.
Hanover shot 51.1 percent (23-45) from the floor, improving to an astonishing 14-0 this season when they shoot at least 50 percent. The Panthers made 11-of-19 (.579) field-goal attempts in the second half.
For the sixth straight game, HC held an advantage in the rebounding department, out-totaling the Lions 34-22. The Blue and Red turned eight offensive rebounds into nine second-chance points, while also totaling a 34-24 edge in points in the paint.
The game was low scoring early on, but an 8-0 run gave HC a 10-2 lead with 12:53 remaining in the opening half. MSJ was quick to get back into the game, tying the score at 16-apiece with 8:32 left before halftime. Overall, there were six ties and six lead changes in the first 20 minutes of play. For the contest, there were 12 ties and the lead changed hands on eight occasions.
Fails scored the final five points of the first half, including a three-pointer at the buzzer to give HC a 34-29 lead at the intermission.
The second half was played within a seven-point window as neither side led more than four points after an opening basket from MSJ.
There were two ties over the final six minutes, as the Panthers never trailed from the 6:14 mark on.
Hanover has now won 20 games in a season for the first time since the 2004-05 campaign, the last time the team won the regular season HCAC crown. The 15 conference wins also marks the most of any Panther squad since the inception of the HCAC in 1998-99 season.
The Panthers will look to cap the regular season with their sixth consecutive victory as they travel to Bluffton for a 3 p.m. tip off on Saturday, Feb. 18.
Contact: Tyler Jester