The Hillsdale College Chargers dropped two games by a combined eight points during a tough road trip last week. On Jan. 24, the Chargers (8 – 11, 6 – 7 G‑MAC) led by as many as six points midway through the fourth quarter against the Kentucky Wesleyan College Panthers (15 – 3, 11 – 1), but eventually lost, 71 – 70. The win was the Panthers’ 10th in a row.
“I think it teaches us we’re capable but that there’s very little margin for error, so we have to continue to improve,” head coach Matt Fritsche said.
On Saturday, a slow start hampered the Chargers in a 69 – 62 loss to the Trevecca Nazarene University Trojans (7 – 11, 6 – 6). Hillsdale has now lost four straight, its longest losing streak of the season since beginning the year 0 – 4. The two losses also dropped the Chargers into the bottom half of the G‑MAC standings with nine conference games left on the regular season schedule.
“It’s frustrating because we know that a lot of teams are already gaining momentum in the conference and we seem to be losing that momentum that we need at the end of the season,” freshman guard Lauren Daffenberg said.
On Thursday, the Chargers shot at a better rate than the Panthers, but turned the ball over 15 times while Kentucky Wesleyan gave the ball away only nine times. The Panthers used the 15 takeaways to create 20 points, whereas Hillsdale scored just 10 points off of turnovers.
Hillsdale doesn’t turn the ball over at a greater rate compared to the rest of the G‑MAC, but the Chargers have forced the fewest turnovers among the 14 teams in the conference. That directly impacts Hillsdale’s turnover margin, which is nearly negative-four per game, the second-worst rate in the conference.
Fritsche said while his team’s defensive style favors forcing opponents to take contested shots rather than getting steals, he would like to see his offense take care of the ball better.
“We put a ton of emphasis on turnovers on offense,” Fritsche said. “We don’t really get into how many turnovers we force, but we do need to lessen our turnovers offensively.”
Sophomore guard Jaycie Burger scored a season-high 13 points and made three of six three-pointers. Senior guard Allie Dewire also scored 13 points and provided five assists.
Senior forward Brittany Gray scored 12 points, all coming from her four three-pointers. Gray is the team’s leading three-point shooter this season, both in shots made (55) and in shooting percentage (34.8 percent).
Senior forward Makenna Ott again led the team in minutes on the floor, and scored 11 points while grabbing nine rebounds. Ott has collected at least six rebounds in 14 of her last 15 games.
On Saturday, Trevecca Nazarene outscored Hillsdale 21 – 10 in the first quarter, and the Chargers didn’t come back to take the lead at any point during the remainder of the game.
“We obviously don’t want [to start slow], but I also know that in some games we’ve come out really good and didn’t finish as strong,” Fritsche said. “But most importantly, we still have yet to put together four really good quarters. That’s something that still concerns me.”
Hillsdale shot just 31.8 percent from the floor, and is shooting below 40 percent as a team on the season. Gray led the team with 19 points, making nine of 21 shots, but just one of 10 threes. Gray said she watched the film of the game afterward, and concluded that she and her teammates took quality shots, but that they simply weren’t falling like they usually do.
“I thought most of the shots we took were pretty normal,” Gray said. “But we’ve gotta have better movement. The ball kind of got stuck in people’s hands, myself included. Once we’re a team that passes and trusts each other a lot more, that’s when you see the real potential that we have.”
Daffenberg scored 16 points, which all came from either threes or free throws. It was her eighth game this season in which she came off the bench to reach double-digits in points. She said when the team can get the ball inside on offense, it opens up opportunities for three-point shooters like herself to get open outside the arc for an opportunity.
“Getting it in has opened up so much stuff,” Daffenberg said. “We do get a lot off of our motion offense, but getting it into the middle just helps us get those extra baskets that we need.”
Dewire scored 13 points, and has scored more than 10 points in 12 of the 15 games she’s played in this year. She leads Hillsdale with 13.1 points per game, and is the team’s best free throw shooter, making 80 percent of her shots this year.
Three of the Chargers’ previous four losses have come on the road, where Hillsdale is just 2 – 5 this season. The Chargers will be at home, where they are 5 – 5 this season, for three consecutive games beginning tonight.
“We’re showing up every game planning on winning our next one and planning on playing the way we know we can,” Fritsche said.
Tonight, the Tiffin University Dragons (7 – 12, 4 – 9) visit Hillsdale for a 5:30 p.m. tip-off. The Chargers defeated the Dragons in Tiffin, Ohio in December, 74 – 65. On Saturday, the first-place Cedarville University Yellow Jackets (16 – 3, 12 – 1) are in town for a 1 p.m. clash.
The Chargers lost to the Yellow Jackets in Cedarville, Ohio in November, 76 – 60. The Yellow Jackets finished first in the regular season conference standings last season, but were ousted by the fifth-seeded Chargers in the G‑MAC tournament.
While Hillsdale still has time to put together a run and climb back up the conference standings, the current trend hasn’t been what the team expected at this point in the season.
“We know we’re close, but we all want to be there right now and not in two weeks,” Fritsche said. “This team wants to win, and they want to win right now.”