LEXINGTON, KY. -- Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology advanced to the championship game of the 2012 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Men's Basketball Tournament with a 59-56 victory over Hanover College on Saturday afternoon.
Rose-Hulman will face top seeded Transylvania University for the right to advance to the NCAA Division III Tournament on Sunday at 2.
Junior Brenton Balsbaugh (Greenville, Ohio/Arcanum) came off the bench to lead a balanced scoring attack with 13 points.
Junior Austin Weatherford (Cicero/Hamilton Heights) added 11 points, and senior Blake Knotts (Louisville, Ky./Christian) also reached double figures with 10 points.
Rose-Hulman shot 35% from the field in the victory but hit 10-12 free throws in a tightly contested second half to earn the win. Hanover rallied from a 10-point deficit at 40-30 by scoring six straight points and moving to within 40-36 with 14:49.
Hanover trimmed the margin to three points at 46-43, but a key three-pointer by Knotts put Rose-Hulman ahead 49-43 at the one minute mark.
Hanover closed to within three points at 57-54 with 11 seconds left. Strickland hit one of two free throws to push Rose-Hulman's lead to 58-54, but Tim Bass scored on a layup with three seconds left to make the score 58-56.
Strickland hit one of two free throws with 0.3 seconds left to push Rose-Hulman's lead to 59-56 and a desperation full court shot fell short at the buzzer as the Engineers advanced.
Rose-Hulman improved to 19-8 on the season for its most wins in a season since the 2003-04 campaign. The Fightin' Engineers also advance to a conference tournament championship round for the first time since the 1997-98 and would advance to the NCAA Division III Tournament for the first time since 1999 with a win on Sunday.