Late surge gives DePauw a 72-66 win at Rose-Hulman

Courtesy of Rose-Hulman

Not forgotten: DePauw men's basketball coach Bill Fenlon (left) is presented a Rose-Hulman letter by Engineer coach Rusty Loyd prior to Sunday's game in Hulbert Arena. Fenlon, who is retiring this season after 30 years at DePauw, previously coached the Engineers for three seasons.

Several times Sunday afternoon the men's basketball players at Rose-Hulman thought they had visiting DePauw — and soon-to-retire coach Bill Fenlon — right where they wanted them.

Which was a big part of the problem, Engineer coach Rusty Loyd indicated after his team had lost 72-66 in the nonconference rivalry game in Hulbert Arena.

The host Engineers had 12-point leads on three different occasions in the first half. After the Tigers wiped out all those deficits, Rose still was up 64-59 after a 10-point Dillon Duff rally in the game's final minutes. But DePauw closed out the game with a 13-2 run, handing the Engineers their first loss of the 2021-22 season.

"The last seven minutes of the first half we were really bad," Loyd said after the game. "It was about focus. We got a lead and thought, 'We're pretty good and we're playing well' and thought things were going to stay that way . . . then we gave [the Tigers] life. We gave them belief."

In a game that figured to be close, there were three ties and four lead changes early. Then three Rose-Hulman reserves — Bradley Harden, Trey Wurtz and Max Chaplin — combined for eight straight points to give the home team an 18-10 lead and it led the rest of the half, including by 29-17, 31-19 and 33-21.

The Tigers crept back within 40-35 by intermission, however, and scored the first two baskets of the second half to get within a point. DePauw's first lead since 7-6 came when freshman Camden Brown hit a 3-pointer to put the visitors up 42-41, and the teams traded the lead back and forth for a few minutes.

Seven straight points by DePauw reserve Cooper Mixon opened some breathing room for the Tigers at 54-49. It was still a five-point game with DePauw leading 59-54, but then Duff was fouled on a 3-point attempt and converted all three free throws, hit a 3-pointer, added two free throws and a short jumper in the lane, and now Rose led 64-59.

Momentum was short-lived, however. DePauw's Nolan Niego hit a 3-pointer, then a basket for the game's final tie at 64-64 with 3:02 left. Brown and another freshman, Ronald Johnson, hit 3-pointers in the last 1:49 that proved to be the difference.

"I thought we were really, really good defensively in the second half," said Fenlon, whose team held the Engineers to 30% shooting from the field in the last 20 minutes. "[The Engineers] beat us to loose balls in the first half, but we did better with that in the second half."

"When you have just six turnovers, you outrebound the other team by 11 and you only miss one free throw, you should win the game," Loyd said, "and we didn't."

Nolan Niego led DePauw with 19 points, Mixon added 14 and leading scorer Elijah Hales was held to 11 points by Samvit Ram (perhaps at the cost of Ram's offensive production for Rose, Loyd indicated). Duff and Terry Hicks had 16 points each and Wurtz added 11 for the Engineers.

"[The Engineers] are really hard to guard," Fenlon said. "I like the things Rusty's doing with them, and they are big and strong."

Last visit — Fenlon coached three seasons at Rose-Hulman before taking the job at Southwestern (Texas) for a season. He then returned to Indiana to take the DePauw job, and this is his 30th and final season there. Before the game, he was presented with a Rose-Hulman letter.

"I don't think I'm done," he said after the game, "but I'm done doing this. I've been tethered to a basketball team for 50 years now."

"Coach Fenlon is one of the first coaches I ever met," said Loyd, who was an assistant coach at Earlham under former Rose-Hulman player Jeff Justus, then joined Jim Shaw's staff at Rose. Shaw was an assistant under Fenlon.

"[Fenlon has] been a great mentor and sounding board for me," Loyd added. "He'll certainly be missed around Division III basketball, and when he thanked me for that letter, I told him it was earned, not given."

"It's always been a treat for me to come back [to Rose-Hulman as a visiting coach]," Fenlon said. "It's a terrific place, and I'll miss coming back over here."

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