The Hillsdale College men’s basketball team fell just short in the final seconds at home to Ashland University before grabbing a win against Tiffin University to move within a game of first place in the G‑MAC.
At 11 – 4 overall and 6 – 3 in conference play, the Chargers sit in third place in the G‑MAC standings, though they are just half of a game behind Walsh University in second place and one game behind Malone University in first.
“Those types of games are what you play for, and obviously the end didn’t go the way we wanted it to, we weren’t able to finish it out,” junior forward Patrick Cartier said. “You live and you learn and I’m glad we bounced back on Saturday the way we did.”
The Chargers began their week on Thursday at home against the Ashland Eagles. The first half was a defensive battle, with Hillsdale holding the lead at halftime with a score of 18 – 16.
“We were beautiful defensively in the first half,” Head Coach John Tharp said. “We were tough as can be and executed our game plan defensively to a T. We just missed a ton of opportunities on the offensive end, we knew it was gonna be a street fight.”
The second half was entirely different, with 70 points scored combined between the two teams. Cartier scored nine of his 15 points in the second half on three and-ones to counter a hot post-halftime Eagles team.
Then, with the Chargers down by eight with three minutes left, junior guard Kyle Guessler knocked down three threes on three straight possessions to pull Hillsdale within one.
“They were trying to matchup zone us, so we started overloading and KG banged some shots,” Tharp said.
Cartier and senior forward Austen Yarian then each missed close, contested looks in the final three seconds to give Ashland the upset.
“We had a play called and we had one timeout left and I didn’t want to use the timeout for them to change their defense up, we just got the ball into Cartier’s hands and tried to have him just go,” Tharp said. “I thought the officials, it was a bloodbath how they officiated the game, it was a tough way to lose.”
The Chargers now have an even 4 – 4 record at home, a far cry from their undefeated home record during last year’s regular season.
“It’s not something we want to get accustomed to and it’s not something we’re used to, the last few years we’ve been really good at home, and obviously you want to put on a show for the fans,” Cartier said. “It’s been a little weird, there’s not really anything specifically that I can put my finger on, a lot of time at home you expect to shoot better than on the road, and we haven’t been shooting great at home for whatever reason.”
Despite their home struggles, the team has rebounded from each of their losses this season, having never lost two games in a row. That trend continued as the team posted its highest single-game point total in a 96 – 69 win over Tiffin.
“We moved the basketball on the offensive end, with this team we have to move the basketball,” Tharp said. “We’re not dynamic enough, we don’t have Connor Hill and Davis Larson making plays off the dribble, we have to move the ball and make the defense guard us in a variety of different scoring actions and I thought we did a pretty good job of that.”
Cartier posted his third 30-plus point outing of the season, dropping 31 points on 11-of-15 shooting, and added 10 rebounds and six assists, both season-highs. Junior guard Jack Gohlke was close behind Cartier in the scoring department, putting up a season-high 25 points on 9‑of-14 shooting including seven made threes in his first collegiate start.
“Once I got onto the court, it just felt right, the shots were falling and whenever that happens everything just seems a little easier,” Gohlke said. “It was just one of those nights where things were going my way and the team’s way and those are always the most fun games.”
Gohlke replaced junior Tavon Brown in the starting lineup, who had started his previous 38 games. Brown dropped five points, eight rebounds, and two assists off the bench.
“We had to make the decision because I didn’t like our rotation with some things off the bench, and with Tavon they were daring him to shoot the basketball and it became a psychological type of thing,” Tharp said. “Everyone just took a deep breath and made the adjustment of spacing with Jack on the floor. Tavon so called coming off the bench, just played a great game on Saturday.”
The team now looks ahead to a pair of home games against Trevecca Nazarene University and Kentucky Wesleyan College on Thursday and Saturday respectively.
“We’ve just got to go in and try to be as focused as possible and not look ahead to anything else on the schedule, just focus on these two teams that we’ve got this week,” Gohlke said. “Hopefully we can build a winning streak at home like we have in past years.”