When head coach Matt Fritsche called a timeout two and a half minutes into last Thursday’s home game against Kentucky Wesleyan University (11 – 8, 7 – 8 G-MAC), he was less than thrilled with his team’s rebounding efforts.
The Hillsdale College Chargers (12 – 7, 10 – 5) had dug themselves into an early hole, due partly to their lackluster performance on the defensive glass.
For the ensuing 37 minutes after the timeout, the Chargers took command on the boards and didn’t look back.
Hillsdale dominated the glass on both ends of the floor, grabbing 22 offensive rebounds, while out-rebounding the Panthers in total, 58 – 24. The Chargers’ rebounding superiority led to a 83 – 58 victory at Dawn Tibbetts Potter Arena.
“We really got after them about their effort,” Fritsche said of the timeout. “We basically told them ‘You can’t win like that.’ From then on, it was game over.”
In one game, Hillsdale moved from fifth to second in the nation in rebounding margin, out-rebounding opponents by an average of 11.9 rebounds per game.
Senior center Allie Dittmer led the rebounding barrage with 12 boards. Dittmer ranks third in the G-MAC this season with 9.3 rebounds per game.
Hillsdale rode a 39.1 shooting percentage from three-point range to pile up points on the Panthers. Kentucky Wesleyan didn’t shoot well all night long, especially from downtown, where they made only 12 percent of their three-pointers
Leading the Chargers on offense was senior guard Maddy Reed, who scored a career-high 24 points and grabbed five offensive rebounds. Reed said the Panthers’ focus on Dittmer got her more open looks.
“They were doubling Dittmer a lot and collapsing in, so she was able to kick it out and find me on the three-point line,” Reed said.
Freshman guard Jaycie Burger made four of eight three-pointers en route to a career-best 15 points.
“It was awesome,” Burger said of her performance. “Shooting threes is definitely something I work on. We get a lot of good looks from three because of all the screens we set for each other.”
Burger drew starts both games last week with junior forward Brittany Gray out with an ankle sprain.
“Brittany is not someone you can replace,” Burger said. “I just wanted to come in and play my game.”
Fritsche said that with Gray out, the team had to be finer in its execution.
“There was less margin for error this time since there was less scoring on the floor,” Fritsche said.” We had to be better at the little things, and it worked out good.”
Two days later, the Chargers hosted Trevecca Nazarene University, whom they lost to early in the season. This time, Hillsdale prevailed in a back-and-forth contest, 69 – 65.
Junior forward Makenna Ott recorded a double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds. She leads the team with 15.1 points per game this season.
“She’s been a consistent scorer for us,” Fritsche said. “Offensively, she found plays for us that were available. Defensively, she stepped up her role rebounding the ball.”
Ott made four of seven three-pointers, including a couple early in the first quarter to get HIllsdale rolling offensively.
“My goal is to just be as versatile as possible,” Ott said. “To be able to shoot outside, to be able to drive to the basket, to be able to post up; those three things I want to be able to do. That creates mismatches for the other team.”
If it weren’t for Ott’s hot hand to begin the game, the Chargers may have been in trouble early on.
Dittmer was charged with two fouls in the first couple of minutes, forcing her to sit the bench for much of the first quarter in order to avoid further foul trouble. Fritsche acknowledged having Dittmer out for almost the entire first quarter was a challenge to work around.
But the senior center with the G-MAC’s second-best shooting percentage found her groove late, scoring 12 of her 14 points in the second half. Fritsche said once the Chargers started working Dittmer into the offense, their execution improved exponentially.
“She makes good choices every time she touches the ball,” Fritsche said. “She’s a smart player and when we play through her, we’re better.”
Junior guard Allie Dewire, along with Reed, each flirted with double-doubles. Both sunk clutch pairs of free throws in the game’s final minute to ice the contest. Despite an admittedly carefree mental approach to the free throws, Reed came through nonetheless.
“I was thinking ‘wow, there’s a lot of people here… this is a pretty close game,’ and then I was shooting free throws,” Reed said, laughing. “But we practice a lot of free throws because we know they’re really important.”
The Chargers have won five of their last six games and continue to climb in the G-MAC. They currently sit in fifth place, but only two and a half games separate them from first-place Cedarville University.
“We’re just really excited and we can feel that energy when we practice and before games,” Reed said. “We’re going into games confident and knowing there’s no one team that’s untouchable.”
Hillsdale travels to play Walsh University (12 – 8, 9 – 5) on Thursday night for a 7:30 p.m. tip off. On Saturday, the team travels to Malone University (8 – 11, 6 – 9) for a 3 p.m. contest. Walsh and Malone are two teams the Chargers have beaten already this season.
“We’re going to be very prepared,” Ott said. “We know what’s at stake and what we have to do to win and get the job done.”