The Hillsdale College Chargers finished the weekend with a 1 – 1 record against two conference opponents. They beat the Trevecca Nazarene Trojans 72 – 59 on Feb. 6, but lost to the Kentucky Wesleyan Panthers on Saturday in a one-point nail biter, 67 – 66.
Last week’s results drop the Chargers to No. 3 in the G‑MAC with an overall record of 14 – 8, and 10 – 3 in the conference. Walsh College and the University of Findlay fill the top two spots, respectively, each with an 11 – 2 conference record.
The Chargers got off to a slow start against the Trojans. The game was tied at 10 with just over 14 minutes to go in the first half when freshman guard Tavon Brown scored a layup that sparked a much-needed scoring run. Hillsdale scored 14 points in the proceeding four minutes while holding the Trojans to zero.
It was 42 – 24 at the buzzer, and the Trojans tried to come back in the second half, closing the Chargers’ lead to six with only three minutes remaining. Senior guard Dylan Lowry sank six free throws down the game’s final stretch, racking up six of his single game career-high 26 points.
“It feels good, it makes it a lot better when you win,” Lowry said of his career-high performance. “It was just a really good team win. We played tremendous defense and when you have three other guys consistently scoring in double digits, it makes it easier.”
Head coach John Tharp said Lowry did a nice job of stepping up and being a senior leader the entire weekend.
“I thought Dylan had a great weekend for us and really played with that senior urgency,” Tharp said. “He attacked the rim and hit some three point shots, and played great defense for us.”
Freshman forward Pat Cartier added 11 points and six rebounds and junior guard Connor Hill put up 10 with four assists.
“It’s really hard to beat a team twice only three weeks apart and they’re really good, especially on their home court,” Lowry said. “It was a long trip but it felt really good going all the way down there and getting the job done.”
Unfortunately for the Chargers, junior forward Davis Larson suffered a knee injury. His teammates said he landed weird causing it to buckle. The kind of injury is still undetermined.
The Chargers felt the effects of Larson’s absence as they played the Panthers on Saturday, but didn’t use that as an excuse.
Both teams went back and forth in the lead for much of the first half. A three by Lowry put the Chargers ahead by seven heading into the half.
The halftime lead didn’t last long, however, as the Panthers started the half with an 11 – 2 scoring run. Freshman guard Cole Nau tried to stop the scoring run with two missed threes, but that didn’t phase him as he shot once more and made it to give the Chargers a one-point lead.
Two possessions later Brown drained a three as well to put Hillsdale up by six. Hill got the and‑1 on the Chargers’ next trip down the court and they seemed to have the momentum they needed to seal the game. In the matter of minutes a five-point lead became a seven-point deficit for the Chargers, but that didn’t stop them either.
A successful and‑1 by Cartier gave the Chargers a three-point advantage heading into the game’s final 34 seconds, but that was all the time the Panthers needed to steal the win. They scored a layup, and a Hillsdale turnover gave them an opportunity to score one more, which they did at the buzzer, giving them the 67 – 66 victory.
Hill stepped up to play one of the best games of his career with 16 points and six steals. Cartier added 15 points and nine rebounds for a near double-double. Junior center Austen Yarian and Lowry each added 12 points as well.
Tharp said Hill’s ability to dribble penetrate and attack the rim brings a unique asset to the Chargers’ offense.
“Connor used his instincts and did a good job reading and denying some things,” he said. “I think he’s having a tremendous year for us as well.”
“I just went in there and tried to pick people up as I could,” Hill said about his six steals. “We had a lot of mismatches so I was able to help out a lot more than I normally would. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but this time it did so that was great.”
The Chargers are set to take on Walsh on Thursday at home, and Ohio Dominican University on Saturday at home, both of whom Hillsdale lost to earlier this season.
“It adds to the motivation. We have two chances at revenge this week,” Lowry said. “They’re both incredibly talented offensive teams. It’s two challenges that we see as opportunities, and coming off that heartbreaker on Saturday, we’re just moving on.”
Tharp said he told his players on Monday that they need to bounce back and play with passion as they head into their final few weeks of the regular season.
“You always hope that when you come off a tough loss that you that you learn from it and use that loss, not dwell on it, but use it to motivate you,” Tharp said. “Every single one of us has to step up with the loss of Davis. It’s February we’re in the hunt of doing some really good things and we have to play with passion.”