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Rose-Hulman

February 28, 2014

Engineers, Hanover to vie for HCAC title

TERRE HAUTE — For the second year in a row, the men’s basketball teams of Rose-Hulman and Hanover will square off for the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament championship in Terre Haute.

The 2014 version will take place at 7 p.m. today and it will involve a top-seeded Rose team that held off stubborn No. 4 seed Mount St. Joseph 68-54 in the tourney semifinals late Friday night inside Hulbert Arena.

“It’ll be a tough game, just like both games tonight,” Rose coach Jim Shaw said.  “There’s not much difference in the four teams [in the tournament]. Hanover’s good. They’re balanced. They’ve got a dynamic point guard [Tim Bass] ... and they’ve got a solid defense.”

In 2013, the regular-season champion Engineers earned the automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament by downing Hanover 64-59 in the HCAC finale in the same building.

This year, they’ll pin much of their hopes for a repeat on the sturdy back and deadly shooting arm of 6-foot-3 senior guard Julian Strickland, the HCAC’s leading scorer who poured in 27 points Friday against the Lions from Cincinnati. He received plenty of help in the semifinals from 6-5 sophomore forward Jimmy Miller, who had 18 points.

“Jimmy gave us some scoring when we really needed it,” Shaw noted. “Julian was Julian tonight.”

Rose-Hulman fell behind 5-4 on a Ken Kunkel 3-pointer, but it answered with an inside bucket by Tyler Duffy and 3s by Strickland and Jordy Martin to move ahead 12-5.

The visitors tied the score at 12-12 with 10:48 left in the first half after baskets by Mark Allen (not the retired WTHI news anchorman) and Travis Combs and another trey by Kunkel.

Then the Engineers went on a 19-7 run that included a couple buckets and another trifecta by Strickland to surge ahead 31-19 before settling on a 33-24 advantage at halftime.

Rose maintained comfortable leads for most of the second half until MSJ pulled within 48-41 on a 3-pointer by David Mann with about seven minutes remaining.

Then the “Strickland Show,” which had been warming up until this point, hit featured-attraction time.

A 3-point bomb from the right wing with 6:17 left. A 3-pointer AND a free throw for a rare four-point play with 5:33 to go. Two free throws – ho hum – with 4:56 remaining.

“He made baskets when we needed them,” Shaw said of Strickland. “He made some big plays.”

In between, there was one Mount St. Joseph basket, but Strickland almost single-handedly increased the home team’s margin to 14 at 57-43.

From there, the only question was what the final score would be.

Also worth noting for the Engineers were six assists by Duffy and 7-for-7 shooting from 3-point range. That included 4 for 4 by – who else? – Strickland.

MSJ’s top scorers were Joel Scudder with 11 points and Mann with 10.

In Friday’s semifinal opener, No. 3 seed Hanover knocked off No. 2 seed Defiance 61-54 behind 16 points from Bass, 13 from Jacob Rieger and 10 from V.J. Billups. For Defiance, Bernard Edwards posted 14 points and Ryan Hicks and Mason Roth added 12 apiece.

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