LEXINGTON, KY. -- No. 23 ranked Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology claimed a two-game lead in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference men's basketball standings with a 54-49 victory at No. 22 Transylvania University on Saturday.
The Fightin' Engineers improved to 19-2 on the season and 13-1 in HCAC play with the victory. Transylvania stands 16-5 overall and 11-3 in league games. Rose-Hulman holds a two-game lead over Hanover and Transylvania with four regular season games remaining.
Senior Austin Weatherford (Cicero/Hamilton Heights) led the Rose-Hulman offense with 21 points and eight rebounds. Junior Julian Strickland (Indianapolis/Pike) added 14 points, and senior Brenton Balsbaugh (Greenville, Ohio/Arcanum) scored 10 points for the Engineers.
Other key contributors for Rose-Hulman included junior Alec Houpt (Chesterton) with six points; and senior Jon Gerken (Defiance, Ohio/Tinora) with three points and five rebounds.
Ethan Spurlin led the Transylvania offense with 16 points and six rebounds. Tate Cox was the only Pioneer in double figures with 11 points.
The Fightin' Engineers relied on their defense to hold Transylvania to 45% shooting from the field and a +11 rebounding margin at 32-21 in the victory. Rose-Hulman also improved to 17-0 this season when holding the opposition under 60 points.
Rose-Hulman jumped out to an early 16-5 lead with 13:49 left in the first half on a score by Weatherford, a tip-in from Houpt and two free throws by Weatherford. Transylvania answered with nine straight points to close within 16-14, before Strickland scored at the 7:01 mark to put Rose-Hulman in front 18-14.
Balsbaugh hit two free throws to give Rose-Hulman a 20-15 lead, but Transylvania rallied to force a tied score at 24-24 at the half.
In the second half, a layup by Weatherford and five straight points from Strickland gave the Engineers a 31-24 lead with 16:58 remaining. The lead stayed at 39-33 with 11:27 left after another Weatherford field goal.
Transylvania charged within 41-37, but another Strickland basket at the 6:56 mark helped keep Rose-Hulman's margin at six points. The Pioneer defense stepped up to force a Transylvania rally, with Spurlin hitting two free throws at the 2:10 mark to bring Rose-Hulman's lead down to 48-47.
Weatherford added one free throw, then Strickland hit two more to give Rose-Hulman a 51-47 edge with 24 seconds left. The Fightin' Engineers held Transylvania to just one field goal in their last four possessions to secure the five-point win.
Rose-Hulman stands 19-2 on the season and hosts Franklin College in the Senior Night game on Wednesday at 7:30 at Hulbert Arena.