The Hillsdale College Chargers split a pair of road games last week. They earned their largest victory of the season, 79 – 48, on Thursday against Ohio Valley University. Saturday’s game had the opposite result, as the Chargers faced their largest defeat against Ohio Dominican University, 68 – 55.
As the Chargers took on the Ohio Valley Fighting Scots, they established their dominance early in the game, leading 42 – 24 at the half. Hillsdale shot 50 percent from the floor while holding Ohio Valley to 31 percent and forcing five turnovers.
Hillsdale was led by its seniors on Thursday night as Harrison Niego, Nick Czarnowski, Nate Neveau, and Gordon Behr combined for 50 of the team’s 79 points.
“It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work,” Niego said. “It’s rewarding to know that you put in the time and energy for the past four years.”
Behr, who hasn’t scored in double digits since Dec. 1, came off the bench to shoot a perfect 7 – 7 from the floor, totaling 14 points, three rebounds, and three assists.
“He came off the bench on Thursday and really played a tremendous game,” head coach John Tharp said. “Played at really nice pace, wasn’t overly fast, and did a nice job in the middle of the zone. When he had opportunities to score, he just scored. It was awesome, we’ve missed that.”
Neveau, who has battled various injuries the past couple of months, had a strong performance as he added 11 points, four assists, and three rebounds.
Niego and Czarnowski continued as steady assets to Hillsdale’s lineup. Niego added nine points, three blocks, and two assists, while Czarnowski had his first double-double of the season, with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
The Chargers had 20 assists and only six turnovers against the Fighting Scots. Going into Thursday’s game, Tharp said his team is at its best when the number of assists is high and turnovers are low. And that’s just what happened.
On Saturday, however, the Chargers failed to find their rhythm against the Ohio Dominican Panthers (16 – 10, 12 – 7 G-MAC).
With only six assists and seven turnovers, the Chargers fell 68 – 55, which was their greatest defeat of the season. Ohio Dominican is the only G-MAC team to have two wins over Hillsdale.
“ODU is obviously a good team,” Tharp said. “They played us differently than Thursday’s opponent. They were very soft on our bigs and really on top of our guards, preventing them to come off screens and those kinds of things.”
Ohio Dominican’s Hasan Varence, a 6’8” junior forward, managed 21 points and 21 rebounds against the Chargers. According to Lowry, he could “jump out of the gym.”
“He’s long and athletic. We tried to force him into certain situations that we thought we’d have the advantage in, but he was able to make plays, so credit to him,” Niego said.
The Chargers trailed 22 – 12 with nine and a half minutes to go, and the score remained that until the Panthers made a jump shot with just under five minutes left in the first half. By halftime it was 32 – 21, and they had shot 34.5 percent from the field, and just 11 percent from beyond the arc, which is well below their average of 35 percent.
Six and a half minutes remained on the clock when Ohio Dominican’s Ben Casanova earned the only technical foul of the game. Lowry went to the line to earned two more points, but the Chargers still trailed by 14, 58 – 44.
“It was just some dude talking trash on the bench,” Lowry said. “They had just hit a three and someone on their bench yelled something and the ref heard it and [called a technical foul].”
Sophomore center Austen Yarian led the Chargers overall with 15 points, eight rebounds, and three steals. Lowry added 15 points as well, and Czarnowski had 11.
The Chargers remain in third place in conference rankings, with Findlay still in the no. 1 spot and Walsh in second.
Two games remain in the regular season, both of which are at home. The Chargers will take on the Trevecca Nazarene University Trojans tonight at 7:30 p.m. The Trojans are currently 4 – 14 in the G-MAC and 4 – 19 overall.
“We just want to be playing our best basketball all around, which starts on the defensive end,” Lowry said. “We did a really good job on these teams last time we played them.”
On Saturday, Hillsdale will host the Kentucky Wesleyan College Panthers, who are 7 – 11 in the G-MAC and 9 – 15 overall. Tip-off is at 3 p.m.
“The debate that you always have is how much do you practice, how much time off, how hard do you practice, all of these factors come into play,” Tharp said.
The Chargers’ final home game of the regular season will be a special one as they celebrate their eight seniors.
“But everybody needs to be two feet in, fully committed to these eight seniors and make sure we send them out the right way,” Tharp said. “This is an exciting time to be playing. There’s a lot on the line and you have to be really excited about the opportunity.”