TERRE HAUTE —
Both Rose-Hulman basketball teams will face first-round opponents that they lost to recently in this weekend’s six-team Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournaments.
At 6 p.m. Friday at Transylvania, located in Lexington, Ky., the No. 3-seeded Rose men will meet No. 6 Defiance, which knocked off the Engineers 62-59 on Feb. 11 in Hulbert Arena. At least the Engineers won at Defiance 87-70 back on Dec. 3.
At 8 p.m. Friday at Franklin, the No. 6-seeded Rose women will take on No. 3 Manchester, which got the best of the Engineers twice — 46-43 Dec. 7 at Manchester and 52-46 Jan. 25 in Hulbert Arena.
Not surprisingly, Rose-Hulman men’s coach Jim Shaw and his players think turning the tables is possible against Defiance, although these student-athletes are likely to be distracted by final exams this week.
“They whipped our butts [Feb. 11],” Shaw said of the Yellow Jackets from Defiance, Ohio. “So if our guys don’t take them seriously, even though they’re a lower seed than us, then we’re not very smart.”
Shaw said Defiance possesses a potent offensive attack led by junior guard Logan Wolfrum, who averages 17.2 points per game and tallied 20 of his 28 points against Rose on Feb. 11 in the first half.
“They’ve improved through the course of the year because they’ve improved defensively,” Shaw pointed out. “This is a game our guys will take very seriously, if for no other reason than they were not pleased with our performance against them recently. But that’s just talk. It has to translate to the floor.”
The Engineers would benefit from a performance similar to what they put forth Saturday in a 75-61 victory over second-place Hanover in Hulbert Arena. Senior Blake Knotts and junior Austin Weatherford paced Rose-Hulman with 18 points apiece.
“We got some momentum going into the tournament, trying to make some noise,” Knotts said after the Engineers dominated Hanover with 55.6-percent shooting from the field and 59.1-percent shooting from 3-point range.
Knotts alone buried six 3-pointers.
“I think we need to keep making shots and be confident with our shots,” Weatherford added, looking ahead to the HCAC tournament. “That really showed against Hanover. We got a little bit of confidence back, hitting some shots and getting the ball to the right people.”
Weatherford believes Rose capturing the conference tournament title to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tourney is not out of the realm of possibility, despite the fact that regular-season champion Transylvania finished 22-3 overall and 16-2 in the HCAC.
“I think we have a real good chance of winning it,” he insisted. “We’re picking up our play lately.”
As for the Rose-Hulman women, coach Jon Prevo hopes his players can regain some focus after losing at home to Hanover 83-57 on Saturday and taking finals this week.
“I think our kids will be excited,” he predicted.
The female Engineers have been a Jekyll-and-Hyde group of late, upsetting nationally ranked Franklin 59-52 on Feb. 8 and losing at last-place Earlham 56-48 on Feb. 15. Franklin and Hanover tied for first in the HCAC at 16-2, but Franklin earned the right to host the conference tourney based on its two regular-season victories over Hanover.
“If we play like we did against Franklin and Defiance [which Rose defeated 60-33 on Feb. 11], we can play with anyone in the league,” Prevo assessed. “We just need for that [Rose-Hulman] team to show up. The girls know we have those capabilities.”
Senior guard Alisa Dickerson poured in 24 points against Hanover, boosting her per-game average to 18.6. In the two games against Manchester, she had 21 and 20 points respectively, but Prevo warned that points probably won’t come easily in the third clash with the Spartans.
“They defend extremely well,” he emphasized. “They switch defenses.”
Prevo also is concerned about the Spartans’ offense.
“They’ve got inside players that we’ll have to do a good job on,” he mentioned. “We’ll have to make sure to not let them get out in transition and get easy scoring opportunities. They’re very disciplined. They play well with each other and they know how to look for each other.”
If either Rose team wins Friday, it will advance to the tournament semifinals Saturday. Both HCAC championship games are 2 p.m. Sunday.