The Hillsdale College Chargers held on to a narrow lead to finish with a 75 – 68 victory over the Malone University Pioneers on Saturday in the Dawn Tibbetts Potter Arena. After back-to-back wins over the Pioneers, Hillsdale sits at a 9 – 2 conference record, 13 – 7 overall.
“It was tough all week leading up to the game. Not playing all week was kind of getting us out of that rhythm,” head coach John Tharp said. “We talked to the guys and said that we played really well at Malone, we made shots and they didn’t, but this was going to be a new game. It was a hard fought win and I thought Malone played really well.”
Saturday’s game was a close contest as the score was tied up 12 different times with 11 lead changes. After a Pioneer layup tied the score at 35 with 36 seconds to go, junior forward Austen Yarian made a jumper to give the Chargers a two-point lead heading into the half.
“I think we knew going into Saturday’s game against Malone that we were going to get their best effort,” junior forward Davis Larson said. “Their team is well coached and plays extremely hard. Playing a team twice in a row is no easy task. They made adjustments from the previous week which made us have to adapt during the game.”
The Chargers were able to maintain that lead throughout the remainder of the game, but it wasn’t easy. Often only leading by a basket or two, the victory came down to a game of free throws. Malone sank three free throws with 33 seconds remaining to cut the Chargers’ lead to three, but a pair of free throws by senior guard Dylan Lowry sealed the win.
Lowry played a well-rounded game with 10 points, three assists, and three rebounds.
When the Chargers played Malone on the road, freshman forward Pat Cartier managed 18 points, but this week he led the team in scoring with 27 points.
“We added a few set plays and got some buckets from those, but we didn’t really change it that much,” Tharp said. “The thing that was so positive for us was that we shared the basketball we made some extra passes and when our assists totals are high, you know were playing the right way and playing pretty well.”
The Chargers totaled 14 assists during the game and had four players scoring double digits. They also managed to keep their turnover total at seven.
And fellow freshman forward Tavon Brown led the team with 10 rebounds. He also added nine points.
He’s been great for us this year. He’s helped us win so many games this year. He’s really unselfish,” Tharp said. “He has a real knack for finding where the ball comes off the rim and he gives us some flexibility with being able to score and rebound and pass.”
Hillsdale only has seven conference games remaining in the regular season, two of which will be played on the road this week. The Chargers are heading south to take on Trevecca Nazarene University and Kentucky Wesleyan University.
Tharp said the team will be looking to sharpen its game on the defensive end during this road trip.
“Our team defense on Saturday took a step backward. We weren’t there for each other and our guys have to guard because we’re an OK scoring team, but we’re not a great scoring team,” he said. “So we try to take away our opponents strengths and control the ball in regards to dribble penetration. We’re just focusing on doing all the little things right and playing as hard as we possibly can. When you go on the road you’ve got to make sure your defense is ready to go.”
Larson said the team understands the challenge of winning on the road and is ready to step up its defense.
“This week we know it’s very difficult to win on the road. One thing we need to keep our eye on is our three-point shooting defense as well as our rebounding,” Larson said. “We can’t go into the game expecting things to go our way. We need to stay consistent throughout the game and play as a team.”
The game against Trevecca will take place in Nashville, Tennessee, on Thursday night at 8:45 eastern time. Then the Chargers will start their return north as they stop in Owensboro, Kentucky, for a 3:15 eastern time tip-off.