The Chargers were up three points with 2:19 left in the second half against Kentucky Wesleyan College, when they missed back-to-back free throws. After defensive stops both ways, Panthers guard Brandon Hatton hit a three-point shot and sent the game into overtime. When the final buzzer sounded, the Chargers had suffered a 75-68 defeat.
“Man, we really should’ve had that one,” junior guard Nate Neveau said.
Head coach John Tharp agreed.
“The bus ride back was quiet. It was a hard, hard loss,” he said. “You stew about it, and then you go back to work.”
After beginning G-MAC play with a 76-73 win on the road against Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee, Nov. 30, the loss was a bitter pill to swallow.
“Obviously, we would have liked to get out of the road trip with two wins,” Neveau said. “We didn’t get the job done, but we learned from it. If you lose and you don’t learn anything from the loss, then you have really lost.”
Trevecca Nazarene came into the game with a 1-5 record but kept it close with the Chargers in both halves.
“It’s a tight gym, a hard place to play,” Tharp said.
In the second half, the Chargers squandered a nine point lead and a 10 point lead, leaving the door open for the Trojans who took a 60-59 lead with six minutes left in the contest. The Chargers regained the lead with a minute left. Down the stretch, Neveau and sophomore guard Dylan Lowry made clutch free throws to seal the victory.
Trevecca Nazarene connected on 47 percent of three-pointers to Hillsdale’s 33 percent, but turned the ball over 18 times, which the Chargers converted into 28 points.
Senior guard Stedman Lowry led the Chargers in scoring with 23 points and added 6 rebounds. Yarian and junior forward Nick Czarnowski each had 10 points. Czarnowski also hauled in 9 rebounds in the game.
Tharp said freshman Austen Yarian, whose 10 points marked his career-high, has improved steadily.
“Austen is rebounding the ball at a pretty high clip for the minutes that he’s getting. He is scoring the ball in the post when he gets opportunities,” Tharp said. “He is still not comfortable with us and how we run our motion. He is a true freshman that is making strides.”
Two nights after the victory against the Trojans, the team traveled north to Owensboro, Kentucky to play Kentucky Wesleyan College, which finished atop the G-MAC last year with a 26-2 record. They lost 75-68 after two tight halves and a lopsided overtime period.
The Chargers lost the shooting battle, making 37.5 percent of their field goals and 21.4 percent from behind the arc. The Panthers, however, shot 50 percent from the field and hit 70 percent of their free throws.
Stedman Lowry led the Chargers offense with 15 points on 33 percent shooting. Czarnowski played heavy minutes and stuffed the scorecard with 14 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals.
The Chargers scored 16 points off 19 Panthers turnovers shot but left points on the floor shooting 8 for 18 from the free throw line.
“We could’ve put the game away,” Tharp said. “We are not grooving right now. We are not at our peak.”
After a long road trip, the Chargers are excited to get back in action at home with their fans cheering them on. Tharp said that moving forward, however, the Chargers need to play better if they want a shot to win their conference for the first time since the Chargers won the GLIAC in 2012.
“We feel like we let one go. If we do things right, we can beat anybody. We are a fine-line team. If we don’t play the right way, we can be beaten by anybody,” he said. “If we play hard and defend and improve offensively we think we can compete with anybody.
“We don’t fear anybody, that’s for sure,” Tharp added.
The team is back in action at home this Thursday against Malone University at 7:30 p.m. and again on Saturday against Walsh College at 3 p.m. And though finals loom, the team would love to have fans cheering in the stands.
“It would be great to have people show up,” Neveau said. “We all understand this place with the rigor but maybe it could provide a good little study break if they need some time off.”