ST. LOUIS, MO. -- Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology shot 72% from the field in the second half, but a late rally fell just short in a 74-71 loss to North Central in the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament on Friday.
Sophomore Julian Strickland (Indianapolis/Pike) led the Engineers with 25 points on 9-14 from the field and 5-6 from three-point range.
Junior Austin Weatherford (Cicero/Hamilton Heights) added 17 points on 5-7 from three-point range. The Fightin' Engineers hit a season-high 12 three-point shots in the contest.
Landon Gamble led the North Central offense with 27 points on 12-14 from the field and eight rebounds. Aaron Tiknis and Kevin Gillespie reached double figures with 11 points, and Derek Raridon scored 10 for the Cardinals.
North Central shot 56.1% for the game, while Rose-Hulman shot 55.7% and committed just eight turnovers in the well played contest.
North Central led 71-65 with 35 seconds left, before a three-pointer by Weatherford brought the Engineers within 71-68 at the 19-second mark. C.J. Goldthree added a layup with five seconds left to push the North Central lead to 73-68, but Strickland banked in a three-pointer at the two-second mark to bring Rose-Hulman within 73-71.
Aaron Tiknis made one of two free throws with 0.8 seconds left to give North Central a 74-71 lead, but senior Jason Haslag (Linn, Mo./Helias Interparrish) grabbed the rebound and called a timeout to give Rose-Hulman a final possession. An inbounds baseball pass was intercepted as time expired.
Rose-Hulman built an early 15-11 lead after a score by junior Brenton Balsbaugh (Greenville, Ohio/Arcanum). North Central answered back to tie the score at 28-28, but Weatherford put the Engineers ahead once again with a three-pointer.
North Central answered to regain a 37-34 lead at the break. In the second half, the Cardinals built seven point leads at 65-58 and 69-62, but a three-pointer by Strickland and a score by senior Spencer Harlan (Terre Haute/South) kept the margin in striking distance.
Rose-Hulman completed the fourth 20-win season in school history at 20-9 overall and tied for second on the single-season school record list for wins. North Central improved to 21-7 and advances to Saturday night's second round game.