News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Sports

December 13, 2012

Efficient Engineers stifle Millikin

INDIANAPOLIS — The word that probably best describes the Rose-Hulman men’s basketball team is efficiency.

The Engineers came into Wednesday’s game leading all NCAA Division III teams in points allowed, allowing just 47 per game while ranking fifth in the nation in field-goal defense at 35.3 percent.

Rose-Hulman (8-1) continued that status quo in a 67-43 victory against Millikin, holding the Big Blue to 37.8 percent shooting.

But the Engineers were equally adept on the offensive end, shooting 54.2 percent and getting 18 assists on 26 made field goals.

“It’s a result of execution, having guys open because of good spacing, good screening, good movement really does it,” Rose-Hulman coach Jim Shaw said.

Junior Julian Strickland scored 12 of his game-high 14 points in the first half, connecting on his only two 3-point attempts to go 5-of-6 from the field.

Strickland was a big part of Rose-Hulman’s ability to run its motion offense with great precision and inside-outside balance in the first half.

The Engineers busted out to a quick 14-4 lead to start the game as Strickland assisted James Pilliischafske on a 3-pointer just over six minutes into the action.

Millikin, playing without leading scorer T.J. Griffin, pulled within eight with 5:20 left, but the Engineers finished the first half on an 11-2 run. Strickland had seven of those 11 points.

The 6-foot-3 guard got a shooter’s roll on a 3-pointer to put his team up 27-16 and converted in the paint twice to make it 33-18.

“He’s a really good player, but what he should be measured on is he’s playing good defensively,” Shaw said. “We’ve been pretty solid defensively all year, and I thought we were really good defensively in the half court. We gave up some second shots and a little bit in transition, but then I’m a bit of a perfectionist.”

Strickland agreed that the Engineers love to rely on their defense as a steady force.

Six-foot-6 center Brenton Balsbaugh picked up two of his three blocked shots in the first half and helped the Engineers to a 19-11 edge on the glass.

“On the defensive end, a lot of people see us as a really good defensive team. We have a lot of long guards and some big, strong big men,” Strickland said.

Balsbaugh also capped the first half with a buzzer-beating conversion on desperation 3-point attempt.

Millikin did a better job of solving Rose-Hulman’s defense in the second half, shooting 50 percent, but Rose-Hulman answered with big shots when the Big Blue made a run.

Point guard Austin Weatherford put an emphatic cap on the game with a baseline drive and one-handed slam to make it 55-37 with 5:10 to play.

Balsbaugh also helped Rose hold athletic big man Deavis Johnson to five points and two rebounds. Balsbaugh finished with 12 points and six boards.

“Brenton has really been playing well. He’s been giving us what we need offensively, and he’s been playing great defensively. He cleans up a lot of messes for us and guards his own man in there really well.”

Rose-Hulman continues a four-game homestand with a Saturday game against highly-regarded Hanover. The Engineers play host to DePauw on Monday.

Rose is receiving votes in the D3hoops.com top 25 poll and will look to go to 3-0 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference on Saturday.

“It’s a huge test for us. Hanover’s one of the best teams in the league,” Shaw said. “It’s a long season. Before you start the season, this is one of the games you point to. It should be an NCAA Tournament type atmosphere with a lot of ramifications for the end of the year.”

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