Rose-Hulman Tops Franklin 84-78 in HCAC Opener

BOX SCORE

WeatherfordMCTERRE HAUTE, IND. - Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology improved to 4-1 in men's basketball for the first time since the 2003-04 season with an 84-78 victory over Franklin College on Wednesday.

Sophomore Austin Weatherford (Cicero/Hamilton Heights) scored a career-high 22 points to lead four Engineers in double figures.

Freshman Julian Strickland (Indianapolis/Pike) joined Weatherford in the career-high club with 17 points.  Sophomore Nate Gissentanner (Conyers, Ga./ Rockdale County) pitched in with 14 points.

Junior Blake Knotts (Louisville, Ky./Christian) added 10 points on 7-7 from the free throw line.  Sophomore Jon Gerken (Defiance, Ohio) added to the balanced offense with nine points.

Weatherford recorded a team-high five assists, with Knotts contributing four.  Sophomore Brenton Balsbaugh (Greenville, Ohio/Arcanum) pitched in with five points and eight rebounds, including a key four-point stretch in five seconds in the last minute.

The tightly contested matchup featured 13 ties and 25 lead changes, including 16 lead changes in the first half.  Franklin hit 17-21 free throws in the opening half to build a five-point lead at the break.

Rose-Hulman shot 58% from the field and 85% from the free throw line with a 50-point effort to overcome as much as a 10-point second half deficit.  The Grizzlies led 51-41 with 13:18 left, but Rose-Hulman answered with seven straight points to move within 51-48 at the 11:14 mark.

The Engineers regained the lead at 56-55 with 7:13 left on two free throws by Gerken.  Franklin forced ties at 58, 59, 60 and 61 each, before Rose-Hulman took the lead for good on a Gissentanner layup at the 4:16 mark.

Rose-Hulman led 73-69 with Balsbaugh had the key four-point stretch in the final minute to secure the victory.  Balsbaugh scored with 45 seconds left to push the lead to six and, after a missed free throw on a three-point conversion attempt, recorded a steal and another basket to push the lead to 77-69 at the 40-second mark. 

Rose-Hulman improved to 4-1 on the season and 1-0 in conference play, while Franklin dropped to 2-4 and 0-1 in league play.  The Engineers return to action against Defiance College on Saturday at Hulbert Arena.