The Hillsdale College Chargers fell 81 – 55 on the road against the University of Findlay in their final tune-up for the G-MAC tournament on Saturday.
The Chargers finish the regular season 16 – 10 and 14 – 8 in the conference. Hillsdale enters the G-MAC tournament as the No. 5 seed. The tournament begins Thursday and goes through Saturday.
The regular season finale was a forgettable one for Hillsdale. The Chargers turned the ball over 24 times and failed to get any sustained momentum going throughout the game.
“We were hurried and rushed, and we’re not a team that should play like that,” head coach Matt Fritsche said. “It wasn’t lack of effort; it wasn’t lack of focus. It was just one of those days.”
Findlay enjoyed a huge advantage not only in turnover margin but at the free throw line, where they made 18 free throws to the Chargers’ one. The disparity in free throws resulted partially from fouls. Hillsdale committed 18 fouls whereas the Oilers committed only eight.
“I think we need to do more to draw fouls, and Findlay’s a tough place to play,” Fritsche said. “We can play more downhill. We’ll draw more fouls that way.”
Junior forward Brittany Gray paced the offense with 11 points and six rebounds. She also sunk three of five three-pointers to lead the team. She pointed to the team’s motion offense as key to getting open shots beyond the arc.
“We do have some set plays that help me get open for threes, but with our motion offense, we like to do down-screens and flair-screens and our team is really good at reading defenders,” Gray said. “We’ve also practiced it a lot, so we pride ourselves on our motion offense with lots of screens and getting open.”
Gray noted that despite getting some open looks, the motion offense wasn’t working as well against Findlay as it normally does.
“I just think we were a lot more stagnant,” Gray said. “The ball wasn’t moving as well, and we weren’t cutting as well as we normally do. The offense that we usually run that helps us win just wasn’t the offense that we saw out there.”
Junior guard Allie Dewire scored 10 points and added six rebounds. She said playing on the road for Findlay’s Senior Day was tough, but not anything the team isn’t capable of overcoming.
“I like those environments where it’s exciting and there’s a lot of energy,” Dewire said. “Unfortunately, I don’t think we transferred that energy well into the game.”
Dewire said the Oilers’ full-court pressure led to the Chargers’ boatload of turnovers, something that has been uncharacteristic for Hillsdale the second half of the season.
“They got us sped up and we were making turnovers that aren’t very characteristic for us,” Dewire said. “We can’t let that happen. They controlled the pace and the speed of the game. If we can maintain our poise and play our own speed, there’s no way we should have that many turnovers.”
With the G-MAC tournament on deck, Dewire said while the loss at Findlay isn’t the ideal way to be heading into the tournament, the recent stretch of success the Chargers have enjoyed along with the bitter taste of a tough road loss will motivate the team heading into the postseason. Before Saturday’s loss, Hillsdale had won nine of its previous 12 games.
“We didn’t play our best ball against Findlay, but we know what we’re capable of,” Dewire said. “We also know that we don’t want to have that feeling again like we did at Findlay. That will be good fuel going into the tournament.”
Junior forward Makenna Ott scored eight points but went 0-for-3 from three-point range. Ott is second to Gray on the team in three-point shooting this year. Ott does, however, finish the regular season as the team’s leading scorer, averaging 14.2 points per game.
Ott also led the Chargers to plenty of scoring opportunities during the regular season, serving up a team-high 84 assists, an average of 3.2 per game. Dewire is second to Ott with 3.0 assists per game.
Hillsdale boasts four players who average double-digit scoring in Ott, Gray, Dewire, and senior center Allie Dittmer.
“We are so democratic. We share the ball; we share the responsibilities,” Fritsche said. “Each night of the tournament we could have a different kid have a great matchup that night.”
Dittmer finishes the regular season as the team’s leading rebounder and ranks fourth overall in the conference with 8.7 rebounds per game. Nearly four of those each contest come on the offensive end of the court, second-best in the G-MAC.
The Oilers held Dittmer to just one point and six rebounds. Her lone point was the only free throw the Chargers would make all game. Dittmer was on the floor for only 17 minutes.
“She was having a hard time finishing plays, and she had been banged up,” Fritsche said. “It got to the point toward the fourth quarter where we felt like it wasn’t going anywhere. She was really prepared and ready; it was just one of those days for all of us.”
The quiet game from Dittmer was abnormal for the Chargers. Dittmer has played exceptionally in her senior season, leading the team with seven double-doubles, ranking second in the G-MAC with a 60.2 percent shooting rate, and eclipsing 1,000 career points last month.
Hillsdale will need Dittmer, along with its other scorers and impact players, to be firing on all cylinders right away in the tournament in a tough first-round contest.
The Chargers play No. 4 seed Ursuline College (19 – 9, 16 – 6 G-MAC) in the first round of the tournament on March 1 at 8:30 p.m. Hillsdale split the season series against Ursuline, defeating the Arrows on the road Jan. 4, 84 – 68 and falling at home on Feb. 8, 85 – 84.