The Hillsdale College men's basketball team did a lot of things right in its Thursday night battle with Malone University in Canton, Ohio. Unfortunately, the final score was not one of them.
Despite shooting 60 percent from the floor and holding a 28-20 rebounding advantage, the Chargers lost a key game to the Pioneers 81-80, dropping them to 16-8 overall and 12-8 in the conference. Hillsdale is now tied with Malone for third place in the GLIAC South Division, which is the last guaranteed conference tournament spot from the division.
Hillsdale will play its last two games of the regular season at home, starting with Saturday's Senior Day showdown with Walsh University at 3:00.
Around a half hour after this game went final, the Chargers got some good news, thanks to Ferris State's 75-72 win over Wayne State. That allowed Hillsdale to clinch a spot in the 2014 GLIAC Men's Basketball Tournament. Head coach John Tharp has guided the Chargers into the conference postseason tournament in each of his seven seasons leading the program. Hillsdale, along with a host of other teams, hold a three-game lead over ninth-place Wayne State with two to play, thus establishing the eight teams that will advance to the postseason starting Wednesday, March 5.
This was the third highest-scoring game the Chargers have played in this year, and it was one that featured 13 ties and 16 lead changes. Ironically, a game that was as high scoring as this one featured only one point in the final 2:08, after Kyle Cooper's layup tied the game at 80. Both teams made big defensive stops, but with 42 seconds to go, Malone's Isiah Elliott made one of two free throws that represented the last points of this contest.
The Pioneers were whistled for a grand total of seven fouls in the game, resulting in just four free throw attempts for the Chargers, easily a season-low. Although Hillsdale hit all four of its attempts from the charity stripe, it wasn't enough.
Malone nailed 11 of its first 16 3-point field goal attempts, and finished the game shooting a blistering 58 percent from beyond the arc (11/19).
The other edge the Pioneers had came in ball control. Malone committed just six turnovers in the entire game, and held an 18-4 scoring advantage in points off turnovers.
The loss ruined superb performances from Cooper and seniors Tim Dezelski and Brandon Pritzl. Cooper scored 22 points, two shy of his career-high, on 9-for-13 shooting from the field. He also had 4 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.
Dezelski tallied 21 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists in 37 tough minutes on the floor. His 10 made field goals gives him 209 for the season, which moves him up to sixth on the Chargers single-season field goals made top 10 list.