TERRE HAUTE, IND. -- Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology clinched at least a share of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference men's basketball championship and will host the league tournament starting Feb. 28 after winning 71-69 at Franklin College on Wednesday night.
Rose-Hulman held a two-point lead in the final seconds, when Franklin senior Bailey Howard drove to the basket attempting to tie the game. The shot fell just short at the buzzer, handing the Fightin' Engineers their 20th win of the season.
Rose-Hulman (20-4, 15-2 HCAC) retained a one-game lead over Defiance in the conference standings entering Saturday's regular season finale at Mount St. Joseph. The Fightin' Engineers hold the head-to-head tiebreak with Defiance for tournament hosting rights after sweeping the season series between the two teams.
Senior Julian Strickland (Indianapolis/Pike) led three players in double figures with 18 points. Senior Alec Houpt (Chesterton) added 14 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore Jimmy Miller (Indianapolis/North Central) also reached double figures with 12 points for the Fightin' Engineers.
Bailey Howard led three players in double figures with 18 points for Franklin. Terry Sargent scored 14 points, and Dion Smith came off the bench for 12 points for the Grizzlies.
Rose-Hulman continued its trend of second half road comebacks to secure a share of the HCAC regular season championship. Franklin led 59-50 at the 6:53 mark, before two free throws by senior Jordy Martin (New Albany) and and a layup by junior Michael Hallstein (Hopedale, Ill./Olympia) brought the Engineers back within five points at 59-54.
After Franklin regained a 64-57 lead with 3:19 left, Rose-Hulman answered with a 10-0 run to take a 67-64 lead with 50 seconds remaining. Sophomore Tyler Duffy (Fishers/Hamilton Southeastern) buried four consecutive free throws to trim the margin to 64-59, Miller added a layup and Strickland tied the game at 64-64 with 1:46 left.
After the Fightin' Engineers forced a Franklin turnover, Strickland was fouled shooting a three-pointer. His three free throws gave Rose-Hulman the edge at 67-64.
Howard answered with two free throws to bring Franklin within 67-66 at the 42-second mark, but junior Corey Povaleri (Deputy, Ind./Madison) answered with two free throws of his own to make the score 69-66 in favor of Rose-Hulman at the 33-second mark. Duffy added two more free throws, before a Howard three-pointer at the 21-second mark closed Franklin to within 71-69.
The Grizzlies forced a turnover on the next possession, settting the stage for the potential game tying shot in the final seconds.
Rose-Hulman won its 20th game for the third consecutive season for the first time in school history and won its second consecutive regular season conference championship for just the third time. The effort marks Rose-Hulman 11th regular season conference title in school history.
The Fightin' Engineers close the regular season at Mount St. Joseph on Saturday. Rose-Hulman will host the HCAC Tournament semifinals on Feb. 28 and the conference tournament championship game on March 1. The winner of the six-team tournament earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament.