An outstanding second-half effort lifted Rose-Hulman to a 72-58 victory over potential — perennial? — NCAA Division III men’s basketball tournament participant Albion in the Engineers’ regular-season opener Wednesday night in Hulbert Arena.

“I think [the Britons] are still trying to find an identity [after losing a key player from teams that were 31-9 the past two seasons],” Rose coach Rusty Loyd said after the game, “but they’ll be a team in a dogfight for the [Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship].

“This was the kind of win that gives us confidence that we can beat anybody,” Loyd added, “and that’s because of the way we won it.”

The Engineers trailed the last 15 minutes of the first half after Albion scored eight straight points for a 12-8 lead. The Engineers’ biggest deficit was just five points, but they never got the lead back.

That changed immediately after intermission. Back-to-back baskets by sophomore Dillon Duff put Rose ahead 34-32, and after an Albion basket tied the score, Vuk Djuric scored inside to put the home team ahead to stay. After an Albion free throw, Rose went on a 12-2 run and suddenly had a 48-37 lead and was pulling away.

“We started taking advantage of some things [the Britons] were doing defensively,” Loyd explained afterward.

Duff — who had nine points, four rebounds and a steal in the first eight minutes of the second half — had a slightly different interpretation, some of it concerned with the fact that he’d gone scoreless in the first 20 minutes.

“We were not happy with the way we were [in the first half],” said Duff, Rose’s leading scorer and the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Newcomer of the Year as a freshman. “All the guys realized they had to step up. We came out harder than in the first half, and [the Britons] weren’t ready for that.”

Also, Duff added, “I was pretty upset about [the scoreless] first half. I knew if I didn’t step up and make some baskets, it was going to be a tough half.”

“Dillon Duff is a special scorer,” Loyd said, “and he started doing that a little bit in the second half.”

Albion had one rally left, and cut the Engineers’ lead to 54-47, then 56-50. But then the Engineers went on a 12-0 run — a basket by Duff, a steal and two free throws by Terry Hicks and two free throws and back-to-back 3-pointers by reserve Max Chaplin. Now Rose had the biggest lead of the game at 68-50, and time had run out on the visitors.

Duff led the Engineers with 15 points. Chaplin scored 12, Jackson Kabrick and Samvit Ram 11 each and Djuric 10. M.J. Barnes had a game-high 21 points and Cortez Garland added 14 for Albion.

Loyd made special mention of Djuric, the Engineers’ burly post player who sat out last season and who added game-high totals of nine rebounds and five assists on Wednesday.

“He plays so hard, [the other players] can’t help but want to play just as hard,” the coach said.

“The first half showed we can’t take anything for granted,” Duff said when asked about the significance of the win. “If we don’t bring the intensity, like we did in the first half, it will be a close game. We can’t have lapses.”

“Albion just battles and fights you,” Loyd said, “and in the first half we let them do that.”

ALBION (58) — McAbee 2-6 3-4 7, Thomas 2-5 0-0 4, Lee 0-1 0-0 0, Barnes 8-14 1-2 21, C.Garland 5-15 2-2 14, Holmes 1-4 0-0 2, F.Garland 1-9 0-0 2, Zeka 4-4 0-0 8, Armstead-Wilkerson 0-0 0-0 0, Winston 0-1 0-0 0, Crittendon 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-59 FG, 66-8 FT, 58 TP.

ROSE-HULMAN (72) — Duff 6-11 2-3 15, Hicks 1-3 2-2 4, Djuric 5-0 0-0 10, Kabrick 5-10 0-0 11, Ram 5-10 0-0 11, Farnsworth 0-1 0-0 0, Wurtz 3-6 0-0 6, Chaplin 3-7 4-4 12, Harden 1-6 0-0 3, Blair 0-0 0-0 0, Jackson 0-0 0-0 0, Krzyzewski 0-0 0-0 0, McGowen 0-0 0-0 0, Simon 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-63 FG, 8-9 FT, 72 TP.

Halftime score — Albion 32, RH 30. 3-point shooting — Albion 6-22 (Barnes 4-9, C.Garland 2-6, Lee 0-1, Winston 0-1, F.Garland 0-2, McAbee 0-3), RH 6-21 (Chaplin 2-4, Duff 1-2, Harden 1-2, Kabrick 1-5, Ram 1-6, Wurtz 0-2). Total fouls — Albion 10, RH 11. Fouled out — none. Turnovers — Albion 14, RH 9 (Duff 2, Kabrick 2, Djuric, Harden, Krzyzewski, Team 2). Rebounds — Albion 34 (Holmes 6), RH 37 (Djuric 9, Hicks 7, Duff 4, Wurtz 4, Ram 3, Harden 2, Kabrick, Farnsworth, Blair, Krzyzewski, McGowen, Team 3). Assists — Albion 14 (F.Garland 4), RH 16 (Djuric 5, Kabrick 3, Ram 3, Hicks 2, Duff, Farnsworth, Harden). Steals — Albion 1 (Winston), RH 5 (Farnsworth 2, Duff, Hicks, Kabrick). Blocks — Albion 3 (Barnes, Holmes, Zeka), RH 4 (Djuric, Duff, Blair, Krzyzewski).

Next — Rose-Hulman (1-0) plays Washington & Lee on Nov. 20 at the Marymount Tournament. Albion is 0-2.

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