Since the start of the new year, the Hillsdale College Chargers have won six of their last seven games and joined the University of Findlay in the no. 1 spot in the G‑MAC rankings. Last weekend’s wins on the road against Kentucky Wesleyan College and Trevecca Nazarene University put the Chargers at 14 – 5 overall, and 10 – 2 in the G‑MAC.
“We set really high expectations for ourselves this year,” junior guard Dylan Lowry said. “The year didn’t really start out as expected. We had some unexpected injuries. This isn’t like a surprise or anything, but we aren’t satisfied where we’re at right now.”
The Chargers took an early command of the game against Kentucky Wesleyan, leading by 11 at the half. With just under 10 minutes to go in regulation, the Panthers crept within four points, cutting Hillsdale’s lead to 35 – 31. But a 17 – 4 scoring run by the Chargers in the next six minutes sealed the victory in a 57 – 47 win.
Lowry led the Chargers with 14 points, and had four rebounds. Senior forward Gordon Behr snagged seven rebounds while adding an assist and a steal.
Hillsdale put up higher numbers in every statistical category against Kentucky Wesleyan, including turnovers; however, the Chargers were more efficient, as they scored 16 points off the Panthers’ 12 turnovers.
“It’s always tough to play on the road, especially when it’s such a long trip,” senior guard Nate Neveau said. “I think we realized to beat any team we have to play well. We aren’t a team that can just show up and win. I was pretty happy with the overall mindset we had going into the game.”
Against Trevecca Nazarene, the Chargers played an aggressive first half, putting themselves up by 10 points in the first five minutes. By halftime, they led 34 – 22.
With six minutes to go, the Trojans trailed by only seven points. Lowry then sank a three-pointer and on the next possession, he added another point at the free throw line to put the Chargers ahead by 10.
In the last 30 seconds of the game, junior guard Connor Hill went 4 – 4 from the free throw line. The Chargers won 79 – 56.
Head coach John Tharp credits both of last week’s wins to his team’s defense.
“The week of, we talked about them being really disciplined with our game plan; paying attention to details and being as tough as we possibly can,” Tharp said. “With a long road trip, we thought those were the things that were incredibly important. From an X and O standpoint, we thought the only way those two teams would be able to beat us was if they made a lot of threes. We did an excellent job of guarding around the arc.”
Senior guard Harrison Niego and sophomore forward Davis Larson scored 20 and 13 points, respectively. Senior center Nick Czarnowski not only scored 11 points, but had seven rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and one steal in an all-around performance. His shooting percentage — 71 percent — was the highest of the season.
Hillsdale will host its next two games. The Chargers will take on the Tiffin University Dragons (7 – 13, 3 – 9 G‑MAC) tonight at 7:30 p.m. On Saturday at 3 p.m. the Chargers play the Cedarville University Yellow Jackets (12 – 8, 9 – 3 G‑MAC).
“I think we’re really starting to get to a point where we have all our pieces — most of our pieces,” Neveau said. “We’re starting to learn how to play together and that gives us confidence because we know we’re getting better. But we know they’re a good team and we’ll have to play well to beat them.”
Cedarville is in third place in the conference standings. Hillsdale beat Cedarville on Nov. 29, but Cedarville beat Findlay, who is currently tied for first with the Chargers.
“We’re just trying our hardest to take it one game at a time right now, not looking past any one team,” Lowry said. “We’ve seen that anyone can beat anyone. We’re confident, but not overconfident.”