The Hillsdale College Chargers began their G‑MAC schedule by splitting a pair of road games against Cedarville University and Tiffin University. On Nov. 29, the Chargers fell to Cedarville, 76 – 60, and on Saturday, Hillsdale beat Tiffin, 74 – 65 for its first conference win of the year.
The Chargers almost came away empty on the Ohio road trip, and trailed by as many as eight points in the third quarter on Saturday. But senior forward Brittany Gray’s back-to-back three pointers brought Hillsdale within a single possession, and the Chargers led by the end of the third quarter.
Hillsdale pulled away in the fourth quarter, and head coach Matt Fritsche said the team’s full potential was on display in the comeback.
“We saw who we can be,” Fritsche said. “We had terrific ball movement and great communication defensively. We hope that’s a jumpstart to playing the way we know we can.”
Gray nearly recorded a double-double, finishing with nine points and 11 rebounds. Fritsche said getting rebounds on their opponent’s first shot was a big factor in the win. The Chargers have grabbed 73.5 percent of rebounds on the defensive glass, second-best in the conference behind the University of Findlay.
Senior guard Allie Dewire, in her second game back from a concussion that held her out for four games, scored a season-high 21 points, making seven of nine shots from the field, and six of nine free throws.
“She was just remarkable,” Fritsche said. “Her effort is always great, but her effort, focus, and decisions against Tiffin were really great.”
Coming off the bench to score 20 points was freshman guard Grace Touchette. Touchette started at point guard while Dewire was injured, but didn’t seem to miss a beat in a different role. Senior forward Makenna Ott added 14 points and eight rebounds in a steady performance.
The Chargers shot 50 percent from the floor in the second half, compared to just 37.5 percent in the first half. Hillsdale also made six of 11 second-half three-pointers, and leads the G‑MAC early in the season in total three-point field goals made.
“We only took great shots. We took very few marginal shots,” Fritsche said. “Everything we took was off of reversals or a punch and kick where they were just easier makes. We moved the ball at a higher level and everything got better.”
Gray added that Tiffin’s style of defense allowed the Chargers to dictate the pace and produce the offensive looks they desired.
“They weren’t as aggressive defensively,” Gray said. “They didn’t deny the ball, so we had time to stop and look and see what the best pass was. We would touch three or four sides, and get the defense to shift a lot. We got a lot of open shots, and shots were falling too, so that always helps.”
Tiffin made just 36 percent of its shots from the floor in the second half. Fritsche said his team’s defense was able to force Tiffin into uncomfortable and contested shots.
“We got them to shoot the shots we wanted them to shoot,” Fritsche said. “We only gave them things that didn’t resemble their strengths.”
Through seven games, Hillsdale has five players that are averaging double digits in points per game. Ott and Gray are averaging more than 11 points per game, and Dewire, along with Touchette and freshman guard Lauren Daffenberg, are averaging more than 10 points per game. Touchette has started four of the team’s seven games, and Daffenberg has come off the bench exclusively this season. Both already have 20-point performances this season.
“We’re definitely happy that when we sub, our kids all come in and bring something to the table,” Fritsche said. “We don’t have anybody who comes in and hurts our team.”
The Chargers host Malone University tonight for their G‑MAC home opener. Tip-off is at 5:30 p.m. Hillsdale defeated Malone in its only matchup last season, 66 – 62.
On Saturday, the Chargers host Walsh University at 1 p.m. Hillsdale split two games against Walsh last season, but beat them at home last December, 87 – 74.
The remainder of the team’s games this month will all be in Hillsdale, with three more games between Dec. 13 and Dec. 30.
“You’ve gotta think you can win December,” Fritsche said. “That’s gotta be your goal, to be at home and after this week, to be more rested. You have to think that’s a possibility.”