The Hillsdale College Chargers began their season with a 1 – 1 record after splitting a pair of home games last weekend. They lost 82 – 73 to No. 18 Southern Indiana University on Nov. 8, then came back to beat Oakland City University 105 – 54 on Nov. 9.
In their game against Southern Indiana, the Chargers had a rough start that they just couldn’t recover from. Despite the loss, they showed flashes of potential throughout the game, foreshadowing a great season with more practice.
“We knew they were pretty talented, but the thing that was a little disheartening for us was that the simple things we tried to do throughout the week we didn’t do consistently,” Tharp said. “Some of the shot selection we had and some of our defense just broke down. We weren’t there for each other enough and when we’re playing a team like that, it can’t be about one-on-one battles.”
Junior forward Davis Larson scored a career-high 29 points to lead Hillsdale’s offensive efforts. Guards junior Connor Hill and senior Dylan Lowry tied to lead the team in assists with two. The team combined for a total of 21 rebounds, compared to Southern Indiana’s 36.
“Davis is a great kid and he played really well. He had a great weekend for us,” Tharp said. “He, like a lot of our guys, cares a ton about about the program, about the school, and us doing things right and that’s really important.”
The Chargers played a scrappy game, with seven steals and forcing 14 turnovers, while only turning the ball over 10 times themselves.
With three minutes to go in the first half, the Chargers closed a 15-point deficit to seven, with the help of Lowry’s back-to-back buckets in the last 45 seconds after coming off the bench.
Much of the second half followed a similar pattern of the Prairie Stars pulling away, leading by as much as 16 points at times, and the Chargers coming back to narrow their lead to eight or 10, but they could never secure the lead.
Five minutes remained in the game when Hillsdale trailed by 17, but after a couple key shots by Larson and three made free throws by senior guard Mike Travlos helped move the offense along, the Chargers closed the game to nine.
Hillsdale’s performance against Oakland City was a much different story, as the team scored more points in the second half than the Mighty Oaks scored all game.
“We played better as a group. We talk about trying to sacrifice yourself to help a teammate, and we did a better job of that on Saturday,” Tharp said. “Defensively be there to help, and offensively it’s trying to take these guys and their individual games and what they can do on the offensive end and take advantage of that, but they have to do it collectively.”
Redshirt freshman Patrick Cartier led the team in scoring with 19 points, while junior forward Austen Yarian had his first double-double of the season of 11 rebounds and 11 points. Hillsdale’s bench scored 55 of the team’s 105 points as well.
“I’ve gotten a lot more used to playing with my teammates and knowing my role a little better,” Cartier said. “I feel like I have better adjusted myself to the speed and physicality of college basketball.”
As a team, the Chargers put together 21 assists on Saturday, compared to Friday’s seven. Tharp says the number of assists is one of the key statistics he looks at when reviewing games.
“Usually I know that we’re playing the right way by our assist total, and Friday we didn’t have as many assists,” Tharp said. “When we look at those numbers, we know that we’re playing for each other.”
After only one-point margin during the game’s first few minutes, the Chargers pulled away and never looked back with a 13 – 2 scoring run, and the gap only widened from there.
Hillsdale will travel to Wisconsin for the Parkside Invitational at the University of Wisconsin Parkside. The Chargers will take on the host school at 7 p.m. on Friday, and will play another game on Saturday, but the time and opponent depend on how Friday goes.