TERRE HAUTE - A second half offensive outburst was the difference-maker on Saturday night as Hanover lost to Rose-Hulman 70-56 in the Heartland College Athletic Conference men's basketball championship in Terre Haute.

It is the third-straight year the Engineers have claimed the HCAC crown and the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament.

The two teams couldn't have played more even than they did in the first half. Hanover guard Kyle James canned back-to-back shots putting his team up 5-0 early but Rose-Hulman responded and tied the game 7-7 at the 16:54 mark.

The game stayed within a single possession the rest of the half. The Panthers never led by more than three points and Rose led just once, a brief 26-24 advantage with 1:23 to play before Tim Bass' 12th point of the half tied the game 26-26 heading into halftime.

Making some adjustments in the locker room and shaking off any rust that might have been left over from the first half, Rose-Hulman started the second period on a 12-1 run and quickly jumped out to a 38-27 lead less than four minutes into the half. The advantage ballooned to 47-33 with 12 minutes to go.

Both teams shot 47 percent from the field in the first half, but Rose improved on its numbers significantly in the second half, leading to the big lead. The Engineers shot a blistering 14-of-23 for 60 percent while Hanover did no worse but no better, going 12-of-25 for 48 percent.

"We hit a scoring drought early in the second half," Hanover coach Jon Miller said. "There was a couple shots that we missed that you'd like to hit in a game like that but you know that's basketball. At the end of the day no matter how you break this down the result stays the same. We played even in the first half and in the second half they made more shots and got more stops than we did."

Most of Rose's sizzling offensive performance in the second half can be credited to its All-American guard Julian Strickland. Although Strickland scored 11 points in the first half, the senior was just 3-of-7 from the field as Hanover's defense kept him from establishing any kind of rhythm.

That all changed after halftime. The Engineers' big gun scored all 15 of his second half points in the first eight minutes and he finished with a game-high 26 points including, three 3-pointers and seven points from the free throw line.

"Julian Strickland is not the only reason Rose is good but when you start with a player of his caliber and surround him with a quality group of guys then it makes for a really good ball club," Miller said. "Playing man-to-man defense the best you can hope for is to make him take some hard shots and we did that in the first half. We broke down a couple times in the second half and he got away from us and proceeded to hit three or four shots that not many players can make. He's a very special player."

Rose-Hulman also picked up the intensity defensively. Much of the Panthers' success penetrating and driving in the first half was taken away, forcing Hanover into some uncomfortable outside shots that never seemed to fall.

Hanover made one final push late in the second half, cutting the deficit to 65-56 with 1:25 to play but Rose answered with a 5-0 run that concluded in the decisive 70-56 final score.

"We're not a tremendous shooting team," Miller said. "Outside of Kyle James we don't really have another person who is as consistent as him beyond the arc. Tim Bass was forced to give the ball up to some different guys who Rose wanted to force to shoot the ball and we just couldn't hit."

Bass led Hanover with a team-high 25 points, including eight points in the game's final two minutes. James also reached double figures with 10. The backcourt duo was named to the HCAC's all-tournament team.

In addition to Strickland's 26, Rose-Hulman also got 20 points from forward Jimmy Miller who was 7-of-9 from the field.

Strickland was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament.

Hanover (19-9) now awaits Monday's NCAA Tournament Selection Show. The Panthers could possibly be awarded an at-large bid into the field but the chance for a tourney appearance appears to be slim, according to Miller.

"The likelihood is unfortunately remote," Miller said. "Regardless of what happens it's been a good season ... a good 19-win season in a pretty good league that we play in. Just the nature of a Division III tournament with a limited number of at-large bids, it probably means that this game was the end of the year for us."



Saturday's Championship

at Terre Haute


HANOVER (19-9) - (g)Bass 25, (g)James 10, Van Kleunen 8, (f)Billups 5, (f)Rieger 3, (c)Marks 3, Steinhart 2, Crabtree 0, Black 0, Bingham 0, Muchmore 0.

ROSE-HULMAN (22-5) - (g)Strickland 26, (f)Miller 20, (g)Martin 6, (f)Duffy 4, (f)Houpt 4, Povaleri 4, Wojcik 4, Hallstein 2, Dodd 0, Loesing 0.

Halftime - Tied 26-26. 3-Point Goals - Hanover 2 (James 1, Rieger 1), Rose-Hulman 5 (Strickland 3, Miller 2). Rebounds - Hanover 24 (Van Kleunen 5), Rose-Hulman 26 (Duffy 5, Strickland 5). Assists - Hanover 9 (Bass 5), Rose-Hulman 11 (Martin 6). Turnovers - Hanover 9, Rose-Hulman 7. Total Fouls - Hanover 20, Rose-Hulman 18. Free Throws - Hanover 10-19, Rose-Hulman 19-25. Fouled Out - None.