The Hillsdale College men’s basketball team is off to a hot start and showing no signs of slowing down this season.
The Chargers hold a 6 – 1 record, good for best in the G‑MAC, with their win streak hitting three in a row after their 10-point win over Malone University on Sunday.
Despite this, head coach John Tharp said he feels the team can be even better.
“We’re trying to take out of every single game things that we can learn from, what we need to improve, and things we’re doing well,” Tharp said. “You’ve got to try to keep making improvements.”
As with many aspects of the season, COVID-19 restrictions have made the team’s self-analysis difficult.
“The hard reality of it is that usually you can figure your team out a little bit more during non-conference basketball,” Tharp said. “Having to start right away with conference basketball, every game is important.”
The team has only shot under 42% from the field in two games this season, but managed to come away with a win in both.
Though they came away victorious in those games, Tharp found that they were telling of team mistakes that needed attention.
“A goal of ours has been to play with pace and purpose,” Tharp said. “We play our best when we are screening and cutting with pace and purpose, and all season we’ve been talking about playing with pace and purpose. That’s when we are most effective.”
Not only have the Chargers found a good deal of success in their record during the start of their season, but they have also been setting their fair share of other school records.
Sophomore Patrick Cartier only missed five shots during the first three games, and led the team in scoring over that stretch. Once he hits the minimum of 250 made field goals, Cartier will hold the record for best career field goal percentage of any Hillsdale player ever.
Cartier contributed his success, and G‑MAC Player of the Week award, to his coach and teammates.
“It’s really a reflection of how many great passers we have on our team, and how many easy buckets they’ve been able to set up,” Cartier said.
In their second game, the Chargers topped Ohio Valley University by a 30-point margin, scoring the most points in a single game for the program since 2010.
“Most of us played together last year, so we all have great chemistry together,” Cartier said. “Everyone is focused on just doing their job and playing together. Any night could be anyone’s night to score 20 points.”
Fifth-year senior Davis Larson is setting records of his own. Though he said he’s never thought of himself as a three-point shooter, included in his 17 points in the win against Walsh College last Friday was Larson’s 75th made three-pointer, making him eligible for Hillsdale’s all-time 3‑point percentage list, where he now ranks third.
“I’ve been blessed to have good point guards that’ll find me and get me good looks when I’m open,” Larson said.
Finding success on the court again has not been an easy process for Larson, after an ACL injury ended his season late last year.
“I think my coaches and teammates do a good job of building that confidence in me, and trusting me on the court, that I can still do what I was able to do before that injury,” Larson said. “It just feels good to be out there with everything going on, I’m just blessed to be out on the court again.”
Like his coach, Larson sees a high ceiling for this year’s team, and expects to sustain their success as the season goes on.
“I think that especially when we’re playing for each other, playing for one another, and playing as a team, I think we’re a force to be reckoned with for sure,” Larson said.