(PHOTOS TO COME WHEN AVAILABLE)
PARIS, FRANCE -- The Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology men's basketball team battled through travel issues and fatigue to win two tightly contested battles to open the squad's trip to France.
The Fightin' Engineers battled through 42 hours of travel, four planes, two mechanical cancellations, one delay and five trips through security and Customs before beginning their trip in Paris. (READ THE TEAM BLOG FOR MORE)
Rose-Hulman took to the court almost immediately upon arriving in France and squared off with the VGA St. Maur level two club team. The opposition featured 20-28 year olds in a regional league, including several former professional players.
James Pillischafske paced the Engineers with 15 points, including four three-point shots and the team's first nine points. Brenton Balsbaugh added 14 points and a pair of strong dunks, with Jon Gerken contributing 13 points.
Rose-Hulman held an early double-figure lead, before St. Maur rallied to force a tie at halftime. St. Maur gained a 68-66 advantage with two minutes remaining, before the Fightin' Engineers scored the last five points to earn a 71-68 victory.
Austin Weatherford put Rose-Hulman ahead at 69-68 on a conventional three-point play, then Gerken buried two free throws to push the lead to three points. St. Maur missed a desperation three-point shot at the buzzer as Rose-Hulman moved to 1-0 on the trip.
The second matchup featured Rose-Hulman squaring off with the top junior team in France. The Paris-Levallois Junior Team featured players aged 17-20 on scholarships with aspirations of playing professional basketball. The squad is a developmental team for the organization that produced NBA all-star Tony Parker.
The long and talented Paris-Levallois squad featured a frontcourt at 6-8, 6-8 and 6-9 for much of the contest and jumped ahead of Rose-Hulman early. The Engineers rallied to capture a 64-63 victory by scoring the game's last six points.
Weatherford paced the Rose-Hulman offense with 17 points, and Gissentanner added 15. Julian Strickland also reached double figures with 11 points. The team took advantage of strong free throw shooting, including Weatherford hitting two free throws with six seconds left to provide the winning margin.
Head coach Jim Shaw noted the sportsmanship, atmosphere and organization as highlights of the team's game experiences thus far in France. The team adjusted to a 24-second shot clock and several international rules, and posed for photos with the opposition following each game.
The team will embark on the sightseeing portion of its trip in Paris and Normandy, before playing a final contest next week.