News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Rose-Hulman

February 27, 2012

Cinderella story in the making

Engineers stun top-seeded Transylvania, reach NCAA Division III tournament

LEXINGTON, Ky. — His team has already won the big prize, Rose-Hulman basketball coach Jim Shaw said Sunday. All that’s left is gravy.

The Engineers advanced to the NCAA Division III tournament for the first time since 1999 with a 76-73 overtime victory over 16th- ranked Transylvania, their third win in three days. The win gives Rose a 20-8 record, its first 20-win season since 1999 and fourth in school history.

Tournament pairings will be announced on ncaa.com at noon today.

“We are elated to win the HCAC tournament championship,” Shaw told the Tribune-Star by telephone during the bus ride home. “The NCAA [tournament] is secondary to winning a championship in a tough league in a three-day stretch … but it’s a bonus we’re looking forward to.”

Rose-Hulman led 71-68 with 12 seconds remaining in regulation Sunday before a missed free throw gave Transylvania a chance to extend the game. Ashley Hatfield buried a 28-foot 3-pointer with five seconds left to knot the score at 71-71. Following a Rose-Hulman turnover, Transylvania had one last possession with 2.2 seconds remaining. Ethan Spurlin missed a well-defended 18-foot jumper at the buzzer to move the game into overtime.

In the overtime, Transylvania took a 73-71 lead on two free throws before Julian Strickland tied the score at 73-73 with two free throws of his own at the 1:58 mark. Austin Weatherford put Rose-Hulman ahead for good at 75-73 with a drive down the lane with a minute to play.

Hatfield missed a potential go-ahead 3-pointer for Transylvania with 48 seconds left, and Jordy Martin hit one of two free throws to give Rose-Hulman a 76-73 lead. Transylvania had one more chance to force an overtime with 3.7 seconds left, but a 29-foot shot from straight on at the buzzer that fell short.

Strickland was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament after scoring 30 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field, including hitting all five of his 3-point attempts. He became the first Engineer to score 30 points in a game since Ron George accomplished the feat in 2008.

Weatherford joined Strickland on the all-tournament team after scoring 15 points with seven rebounds and four assists. Jon Gerken pitched in with a season-high 17 points and six rebounds.

Barrett Meyer scored 21 of his 23 points in the first half to help Transylvania build a 37-29 lead at the break.  Brandon Rash scored 16 points with eight rebounds and Spurlin added 14 points and 12 rebounds for Transylvania.

Rose-Hulman shot 56 percent from the field for the game, including 65 percent during the second half to force the game into overtime. The big rally occurred out of the locker room to start the second half, when Rose-Hulman scored 16 points in 3:17 to turn an eight-point halftime deficit into a 45-41 lead on a 3-pointer by Martin.

“The last couple of weeks we’ve shot it better and played with more confidence offensively,” Shaw said after the game. “In two of the tournament games we shot well, and we gutted it through [Saturday against Hanover]. And we had very few turnovers for the weekend, less than 20 in three games.”

The Engineers built a pair of four-point leads in the second half before Transylvania regained the lead at 63-61 on a score by Spurlin at the 3:58 mark.

A Strickland 3-pointer put Rose-Hulman ahead 64-63 with 2:45 left. A 3-pointer by Weatherford and two free throws by Martin gave the Engineers a four-point lead at 69-65. Chris Owens answered with a 3-pointer to bring Transylvania to within 69-68 before Gerken scored again with 26 seconds left to set the stage for the final plays of regulation.

“It was a rough day but a great day,” Shaw said. “We played three games in three days and we did not show any fatigue … we battled 125 minutes [including the one overtime period] as it turned out … and that’s a sign of toughness.

“We made shots and we beat a very good team having a good day. We didn’t catch Transylvania on an off day.”

The fluctuating nature of the Division III tournament, in which the number of tournament teams is determined by a percentage of teams competing in the division, makes a destination for the Engineers this week impossible to predict, Shaw indicated.

“Our seed will be low,” he said, meaning the Engineers will be on the road, and they could play again as soon as Thursday. “We won’t travel extremely far,” Shaw added.

Transylvania is almost certain to get an at-large bid for the tournament, he indicated.

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