BLUFFTON, OHIO -- Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology head coach Jim Shaw became the second men's basketball coach in program history to win 300 career games as the Fightin' Engineers rallied to defeat Bluffton University 61-55 on Saturday afternoon.
Rose-Hulman outscored Bluffton 39-15 in the second half to overcome an 18-point halftime deficit and improve to 19-4 on the season. The Fightin' Engineers are also 14-2 in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference play and maintain a one-game lead over Defiance in the conference standings. Rose-Hulman needs one win in its last two games to secure hosting rights for the HCAC Tournament.
Senior Julian Strickland (Indianapolis/Pike) propelled the offense with 27 points and six rebounds. Seniors Alec Houpt (Chesterton) and Jordy Martin (New Albany) added nine points each.
Bluffton jumped out to a 40-22 halftime lead by shooting 62% from the field in the first half. Thayne Recker had 12 points and Dustin Kinn added 10 as the Beavers looked to pull a significant upset.
Rose-Hulman rallied in the second half to retain the conference lead and secure the historic 300th career victory for Shaw. The Beavers held on to a 49-39 lead with 10:05 remaining, before the Engineer defense stepped up to propel the rally.
Rose-Hulman enjoyed a 16-2 rally over the next seven minutes to take a four-point lead at 55-51 with 3:08 left. Two free throws and two field goals by Strickland brought the Engineers within 51-49, before a tip-in by sophomore Matt Loesing (Elsberry, Mo.) with 6:14 left tied the score for the first time at 51-51.
Houpt scored in the paint with 4:17 left to give Rose-Hulman its first lead at 53-51, then the lead reached four points on another Houpt score with 3:08 left. Bluffton relied on baskets from Austin Rohde and Will Pope to tie the score again at 55-55 with 2:15 left.
Strickland calmly buried two free throws at the 2:04 mark to give the Engineers a 57-55 edge. Following a pair of turnovers, the Engineers forced a missed layup from Recker with 1:10 left. Rose-Hulman ran the shot clock down on its next possession, until Strickland scored with 36 seconds left to push the lead to 59-55.
Bluffton battled on its next possession with three shot attempts, but the Beavers could not get two three-point tries and a layup to fall. After a Rose-Hulman rebound, Strickland hit two more free throws to secure the final margin of victory.
Shaw improved to 300-219 overall in his 20 years at Rose-Hulman. John Mutchner, a 25-year head coach from 1963-88, holds the career school record with 340 wins.
The Fightin' Engineers travel to Franklin College on Wednesday night. Rose-Hulman needs one win to secure a second consecutive conference regular season title, hosting rights to the HCAC Tournament and the third straight 20-win season for the first time in school history.