With head coach John Tharp’s 450th win, and a career week from senior guard Connor Hill, the Chargers finished 3 – 0 on the road to push their win streak to 13 games.
Hill scored 21 points against Malone on Thursday, and followed it with 23 points against Walsh on Saturday, each new career highs. Along with a career-high in scoring, Hill dished out nine assists between the two games and shot more than 77% combined from the field.
“He’s got one of the best pull-up games I’ve ever seen,” Tharp said. “It was really just Connor being Connor to be honest with you, I was super proud of the week that he had.”
Malone entered Thursday’s game on a five-game win streak, averaging more than 85 points per game over that stretch. This didn’t phase Hillsdale, however, as the team gutted out a 75 – 69 victory.
The Chargers stepped up to the challenge on both ends of the floor, holding Malone to just 69 points while keeping them under 40% shooting from the field. Hill’s stellar offensive play was matched by three other Chargers who also scored in double figures.
“Thursday was a really good team win, a lot of different guys stepped up,” Tharp said. “It was really important to us that we shot the ball well from the free-throw line. Our defense, especially in the second half, I thought did a really good job.”
Sophomore forward Patrick Cartier shot 100% from both the field and the free-throw line, but scored just 14 points and grabbed only two rebounds. It marked the first time that Cartier scored under 15 points in a game since the Chargers’ win over Malone on Jan. 10, as four personal fouls held Cartier to just 24 minutes in the game.
“I definitely got into some foul trouble, and coach Tharp has really gotten on me about my rebounding numbers. I’m not living up to what I can do on the glass,” Cartier said. “Foul trouble obviously played a part. A couple of calls didn’t go my way and then a couple of stupid plays made me not play my usual minutes, but I was really happy with the way that guys stepped up down the stretch and helped us pull out the win.”
From the tip to the final two minutes, Hillsdale never led by more than 10 points. With under two minutes remaining, Malone’s Bryce Butler hit a tough three to cut the Chargers’ lead to two.
From there, it was Cartier and Hill’s eight combined points in the final two minutes that closed out the Pioneers.
“For Connor to come in scoring like that and get more recognition, I think is awesome,” Cartier said. “He definitely deserves that. I think if he keeps scoring the way he is, we’re gonna be really really tough to beat.”
The Chargers followed their win over Malone with a dominant showing against Walsh, using their bench’s red-hot shooting from outside to grab a win on the road, 89 – 68.
Four Chargers scored in double figures again, led by Hill and Cartier, who combined for 45 points including four threes. Sophomore guard Cole Nau led the way for a bench that scored 18 points.
“The difference in that game was our bench. Our bench absolutely dominated, they played great,” Hill said. “Cole Nau, Jack Gholke, Kyle Goessler, Noah Applegate, Peter Kalthoff, they all came in and either scored or provided us with some sort of spark. The bench kind of carried us in that one.”
Tharp honored the same five bench players for their outstanding play, saying he was proud of the team’s efforts.
After making only three threes against Malone, the Chargers bounced back, shooting more than 48% from deep. Three of the team’s 12 made threes came on a 13 – 2 run with eight minutes left in the second half. The Chargers used the run to grab a 20-point lead and put Walsh away for good. Eight of those 13 points came from bench players.
Hill was the Chargers’ leading scorer, this time with 23 points on 9 – 11 shooting.
“I scored a lot but I wouldn’t call myself the primary option. All four of those bigs are all so talented,” Hill said. “We’ve talked about it all year, how some games, it’s gonna be Austen or Tavon, this weekend it just happened to be me, and next weekend it’ll probably be somebody else. We’re so hard to guard because we always have five guys on the court that can score the rock.”
That was true of the Chargers’ win over Ohio Dominican University on Wednesday night, which was Tharp’s 450th win. The Chargers used double-digit games from four of the team’s five starters to take down ODU in a hard-fought game on their home court.
Cartier led the way with 19 points, and Yarian dished out a season-high eight assists as they fought past ODU, 65 – 54.
“We’re just making sure that we don’t look too far ahead, and I don’t think that our guys do either, they understand what’s going on,” Tharp said. “We just have to focus on getting better as a team. I know that’s coach talk, but it’s the truth of the matter, we’ve got things to get better at here if we want to continue to win.”
The Chargers will return home on Saturday for a rematch with Ohio Valley University, who they beat 106 – 76 back in December. On Feb. 24, they’ll travel to take on the Tiffin Dragons.
“I’m excited that we put ourselves in the position that we’re in, and where we want to be; to win the conference,” Hill said. “Hopefully we can just keep playing together as a team, like we’ve done all year, and hopefully pull out these last couple, we’re just taking it one game at a time and not looking ahead.”