Rose-Hulman Clinches HCAC Tournament Bid with Win Over Bluffton


StricklandFONTTERRE HAUTE, IND. - Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology clinched a bid to the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament with a 65-55 men's basketball victory over Bluffton University on Saturday.

The Engineers won their 16th game of the season and improved to 10-6 in conference play to secure one of the six spots in the postseason tournament that takes place Feb. 25-27.

Freshman Julian Strickland (Indianapolis/Pike) led four players in double figures with a career-high 18 points on 6-10 from the field and 5-5 from the foul line.

Freshman James Pillischafske (Louisville, Ky./Male) added four three-point field goals for 12 points.  Sophomores Jon Gerken (Defiance, Ohio/Tinora) and Austin Weatherford (Cicero/Hamilton Heights) added 11 points each.

Sophomore Nate Gissentanner (Conyers, Ga./Rockdale County) came off the bench with eight points, three rebounds and three assists.

Mychal Hill led the Bluffton offense with 24 points and was the lone Beaver to reach double figures on the afternoon.

Bluffton led a tightly contested first half by a 30-28 margin at the break.  The Beavers shot 41% from the field and held the Engineers to just 33% in the opening 20 minutes.  The first half featured five ties and four lead changes.

In the second half, Rose-Hulman shot 65% from the field to overcome Bluffton and secure its HCAC Tournament bid.  Bluffton held a pair of six-point leads at 34-28 and 36-30, before five straight points from Strickland brought Rose-Hulman within 37-36 at the 15:27 mark.

Bluffton again built a six-point advantage at 45-39 on a three-pointer by Josh Johnson at the 13:38 mark.  The Engineers rallied back to knot the score at 45-45 on a jumper by Gerken with 9:06 left.

Rose-Hulman continued its spurt with a 19-5 run over the next seven minutes to solidify the win.  Two layups by Gerken, a three-pointer by Weatherford and a score by Gissentanner propelled the rally.

Rose-Hulman improved to 16-7 overall and 10-6 in HCAC play, while Bluffton dropped to 14-9 and 7-9 in conference games.  The Engineers travel to Hanover on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.