CINCINNATI, OHIO -- Despite a loss at Mount St. Joseph on Saturday, the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology men's basketball team earned a share of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference title and will host next weekend's league tournament.
Mount St. Joseph improved to 16-8 overall and finishes fourth in the league standings after a 69-57 victory. Rose-Hulman completed the regular season with a 20-5 mark for the sixth 20-win season in Fightin' Engineer men's basketball history.
Rose-Hulman and Defiance share the HCAC title after identical 15-3 conference seasons, but the Fightin' Engineers will host the league tournament by virtue of sweeping the regular season series between the two teams.
The two teams may face again on Friday night. Rose-Hulman will face the winner of Tuesday's opening round matchup between Mount St. Joseph and Transylvania. The semifinal matchup will tip shortly after 8 p.m. Friday at Hulbert Arena.
The remainder of the tournament features Defiance, with a first-round bye, facing the winner of Tuesday's game between Hanover and Franklin on Friday at Rose-Hulman.
On Saturday, Mount St. Joseph placed four players in double figures and held the Fightin' Engineers to 38% shooting from the field in the win. David Mann led the Lions with 17 points, Femi Thompson added 14, Joel Scudder scored 12, and Ken Kunkel had 11 points for the victors.
The win also snapped Rose-Hulman's winning streak at eight games. The Fightin' Engineers enter the HCAC Tournament with 17 wins in their last 19 contests.
Senior Julian Strickland (Indianapolis/Pike) led the Rose-Hulman offense with 23 points on 8-18 from the field. Strickland also hit three trifectas and led the team with four assists.
Senior Alec Houpt (Chesterton) contributed 18 points and seven rebounds to the effort on 8-11 from the field. Sophomore Tyler Duffy (Fishers/Hamilton Southeastern) added 11 points, while sophomore Jimmy Miller (Indianapolis/North Central) contributed five points and a career-high 10 rebounds.
Rose-Hulman outrebounded the Lions 36-26 in the contest, but Mount St. Joseph hit 21-24 free throws to provide a significant portion of its offense.
Rose-Hulman jumped out to an early 13-5 lead, before Mount St. Joseph scored seven straight points to close within 15-12. The Engineers pushed the lead to seven points at 28-21, but the Lions answered with six straight points to move within 28-27 at the break.
Mount St. Joseph opened the second half on an 11-4 run to take a 38-32 lead on a three-pointer by Mann, before Rose-Hulman trimmed the margin to six points at 47-41 on a Strickland three-pointer. The Lions responded with a 9-0 run to push the lead to 15 points and secure the victory.
Rose-Hulman returns to action at the HCAC Tournament on Friday night at Hulbert Arena. The winner of the six-team tournament receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament.