Rose-Hulman tips No. 16 Pioneers in HCAC tourney finals
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Transylvania ran into a hot-shooting Rose-Hulman team Sunday in the 2012 Heartland Conference Men's Basketball Tournament finals and dropped a 76-73 overtime decision in the Beck Center.
The 16th-ranked Pioneers (23-4) were looking for their first tournament championship since 2009 and an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament. Instead that spot will go to the Engineers (20-8), who advanced to the finals as the No. 3 seed and defeated Defiance and Hanover prior to taking on the Pioneers.
Ranked third in the region, Transy still has an excellent chance to receive an at-large bid, giving the HCAC two teams in the 63-team field. Pairings and sites for the NCAA tournament will be announced Monday night.
"I want to congratulate Rose-Hulman for playing so well," said Transy head coach Brian Lane, who led the Pioneers into post-season play in 2006, 2007, and 2009. "At the same time, I ache for our guys who have had a fantastic season and wanted to cut down the nets in their home gym so badly. But we'll regroup and get ready for the NCAA Tournament. Our season is still ahead of us."
Barrett Meyer got Transy off to a fast start, hitting his first five three-point attempts to help the Pioneers to a 37-29 half time advantage. He finished the half with 21 points and Brandon Rash had eight, matching the Engineers' total.
The Pioneers were 13 of 28 in the first half (46.4 percent), which included six of 11 from long range. Rose-Hulman was 11 of 21 (52.4 percent), which included three of eight from three-point land.
It was Rose-Hulman that got off to a fast start in the second half, using a 16-4 run to carve out a 45-41 lead at the 16:43 mark.
The teams battled evenly the rest of the way with neither able to pull ahead by more than four points. After Rose-Hulman's Jordy Martin hit a free throw with seven second to go, giving the visitors a 76-73 lead in overtime, Rash had a three to tie it, but it rimmed out from the top of the key.
"I thought we played a heck of a game," said Lane. "I am so proud of our guys. Rose-Hulman just had one of those games were everything went right. Hopefully, that will be good for our conference and we'll get two teams in the NCAA field."
Ashley Hatfield's (eight points) deep triple with five seconds to go in regulation tied the score at 71-71. Ethan Spurlin and Rash each had free throws to put Transy up by two to open the extra period, but tourney MVP Julian Strickland (30 points on 10 of 16 shooting, five of five from long range) hit a pair from the stripe to tie it up for the eighth time. There were also 14 lead changes.
Austin Weatherford hit a layup for the Engineers at the one-minute mark and Martin's free throw set the final margin.
Meyer finished with 28 points to lead the Pioneers and Rash had 16 points and eight rebounds. Ethan Spurlinhad a double double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Rash ran his career scoring total to 972 points.
Jon Gerken added 17 points for Rose-Hulman and Weatherford finished with 15.
Meyer, Spurlin, Weatherford, Anderson's Brock Morrison, and Hanover's Ryan Nowicki were named to the All-Tournament team.
Rose-Hulman was 11 of 20 overall from three-point range, including eight of 11 in the second half. The Engineers hit 55 percent from the field and from three-point range. During their second-half rally, they knocked down 13 of 20 shots.
Transy was also sizzling, sinking 15 of 28 in the second half (54 percent) and 46 percent overall (28 of 61). The Pioneers were nine of 18 from three-point land.