The Hillsdale College Chargers continued their upward trend in the G-MAC on Saturday with a resounding 88 – 67 victory over the University of Findlay Oilers. The win evens the Chargers’ record at 11 – 11 overall, and 9 – 7 in the G-MAC. The all-time series between Hillsdale and Findlay is now tied at 22 wins each.
The Chargers have won three games in a row, and have moved up to fifth place in the conference standings after sitting in ninth place just three weeks ago, when they lost to the Oilers in Findlay, 69 – 64. The last two teams the Chargers have beat — Cedarville University and Findlay — have a combined record of 32 – 12 this season, and 24 – 9 against G-MAC teams. Hillsdale has now handed each team a loss.
On Saturday, the Chargers shot better from outside the three-point line than inside, sinking 15 of 29 shots from beyond the arc.
“We find what’s available, and today that was available,” head coach Matt Fritsche said. “They were there, and they were quality looks. If we’re taking good shots, we’ll be fine with it.”
Senior forward Brittany Gray led the way, making four of five threes en route to a team-leading 17 points.
“In the first half, I thought we couldn’t miss,” Gray said. “Shooting is hit or miss — it depends on the night — but today, we just hit shots. It just shows the work we’re putting in.”
After a close first quarter, the Chargers outscored the Oilers in the second quarter 27 – 14 to build a 15-point lead by halftime. In the second quarter, Hillsdale was especially lethal from downtown„ going seven for 11, a 63.6 shooting percentage, from three-point range.
Freshman guard Lauren Daffenberg sunk a pair of threes in the win, made four free throws in four attempts, and scored 14 points in just 17 minutes coming off the bench.
“We knew hopefully our three-point shot was going to be there,” Daffenberg said. “Because our movement was so good, we were able to get that much more open and make that many more shots.”
Despite being a reserve player, Daffenberg is second on the team in threes made this season (36), and has gone 35 for 39 from the free throw line, translating to a team-best 89.7 free throw percentage. She averages 9.4 points per game despite playing only 17.4 minutes per game, making her by far the team’s most efficient scorer.
The Chargers’ entire offense was running efficiently on Saturday, with 19 of its 30 made field goals coming off of assists. Three players — Daffenberg, senior guard Allie Dewire, and senior forward Makenna Ott — had four assists each.
“They did a good job of playing for each other and finding each other,” Fritsche said of his team’s offense and ball movement. “When we move the ball and move bodies like we did today, we look like a really talented team.”
The Chargers turned the ball over only nine times, their first game with single-digit turnovers since Dec. 13.
“A huge part of it is trust,” Daffenberg said of the Chargers’ effective execution. “Trusting our defense — especially our help defense — and on offense, trusting every player. Our confidence has definitely been on the rise.”
Fritsche said that confidence has been a result of preparation in practice and close attention to detail in scouting opposing teams’ styles of play.
“They’re super locked in and attentive to what we’re trying to get done,” Fritsche said of his team. “It’s made it easy to feel like they can win. I’ve been really proud of their effort in practice, and I think that gives them a little boost.”
Dewire scored 16 points — 11 in the second half — and Ott recorded her fourth double-double of the season with 13 points and 13 rebounds. The tandem of Gray, Ott, and Dewire each averages more than 12 points per game this season, a testament to the team’s offensive balance and consistency.
Defensively, Hillsdale has held its opponents to less than 70 points in eight of its last 11 games, despite going just 6 – 5 in that stretch. The upward defensive trend, however, paired with an even more explosive and disciplined offense, has been manifest in the recent upending of top-tier teams.
“I think we’re one of the most talented teams in the G-MAC. The way we’ve been prepping showcases our talent — and we know what we can do,” Gray said. “Seeing this team finally come together the way I knew we were going to just gives me all the confidence in the world.”
Fritsche said that while he agrees the team is trending up and building confidence, to reach its peak, it will have to prove it can win games on the road.
The Chargers are just 2 – 5 on the road this season, but their opportunity to buck that trend begins now. With six games remaining in the regular season, their next four games are all away from home.
“I hope the momentum from these home games and the confidence of knowing we can play well will transfer to playing on the road,” Daffenberg said. “We know what kind of focus has to go into preparing for a team on the road.”
First, the Chargers visit Ursuline College (8 – 14, 7 – 9 G-MAC) in Pepper Pike, Ohio, tonight for a 5:30 tip-off. Hillsdale beat Ursuline at home on Dec. 18, 89 – 84. On Saturday, the Chargers travel to Painesville, Ohio, to take on Lake Erie College (11 – 10, 8 – 8). Hillsdale beat Lake Erie on Dec. 13, 85 – 61.
“It’s just gonna be about keeping that same preparation that we have been and being confident playing on the road,” Gray said. “With the three-game win streak we have now, I think going on the road is going to be very helpful for us.”