The Hillsdale College men’s basketball team is finding its rhythm at just the right time.
Five players scored in double figures as the Chargers knocked off the Ohio Dominican Panthers 80 – 71 on Saturday afternoon at Dawn Tibbetts Potter Arena. It’s the Chargers’ third consecutive win and brings them within a half-game of the final GLIAC Tournament spot with 6 games remaining.
“Five guys in double digits — that’s when we’re going to be at our best,” Hillsdale head coach John Tharp said. “That was a game that three or four weeks ago we would’ve lost.”
Junior guard Ryan Badowski led the Chargers with 22 points and 10 rebounds on 6‑of-11 shooting. Sophomore point guard Nate Neveau scored 13 points and grabbed 8 rebounds and senior forward Rhett Smith scored 12 points. Sophomore forward Nick Czarnowski and redshirt freshman point guard Dylan Lowry came off the bench and scored 14 and 12 points, respectively.
“Badowski was fantastic. You see what he can do off the dribble for us and how much that means to us,” Tharp said. “Dylan Lowry off the bench played incredibly well and again Nick Czarnowski played incredibly well.”
The Panthers finished with a higher field goal shooting percentage than the Chargers, but took 10 fewer shots. Hillsdale dominated Ohio Dominican on the offensive glass, grabbing 13 and scoring 19 second chance points. The Panthers finished with just 6 offensive rebounds and 10 second chance points.
“That was huge. That was one of our emphases here that we felt like we had to do,” Tharp said. “Getting those extra possessions was a key to us winning that game.”
In the first half, the Chargers trailed the Panthers early as the teams exchanged runs.
The Panthers hit back-to-back 3‑pointers with 11:37 remaining in the first half, capping off a 7 – 0 run that put the Chargers behind 18 – 10.
Hillsdale responded with five quick points but the Panthers hit back-to-back 3‑pointers again to restore a 9‑point lead, 24 – 15. But once again, the Chargers fought back. A 7 – 0 run brought the Chargers within 2 at 24 – 22.
The Panthers rattled of six straight points to take a 30 – 22 lead, but the Chargers finished the first half on a 14 – 4 run to take a 36 – 34 advantage into the locker room.
“With this group, we just have to hang in there,” Tharp said. “We eventually find our rhythm.”
The Chargers built a 7‑point lead in the opening minutes of the second half. The Panthers pulled within 3 points twice down the stretch but never drew closer, as the Chargers pulled out an 80 – 71 win.
“We weren’t great defensively, but we made enough stops at the end,” Tharp said.
Tharp said the Chargers are “happy” with their three-game win streak.
“This group has kept on battling,” Tharp said. “We’re a little inconsistent defensively, we still don’t run great motion, but we have different guys that are making plays for us.”
With their win over the Panthers, the Chargers improved to 10 – 10 overall and 6 – 8 in GLIAC play. The Chargers will try to stretch their win streak to four on Thursday when they face the GLIAC South Division-leading Findlay Oilers at 7:30 p.m. in Findlay, Ohio.
“Findlay is incredibly talented. They don’t lose very much on their home floor, so we know we’re going to have to be incredibly physical for us to go get them,” Tharp said. “They’re a little bit more of a finesse team that can really score the basketball so we’re going to have to be incredibly physical to try to balance them.”
Hillsdale’s next home game is next Saturday at 3 p.m. against the Ashland Eagles.