GREENCASTLE, IND.- "Must win" may have been a little too desperate of a moniker to assign to DePauw's game at Hanover on Saturday, but the Tigers 57-56 win at Hanover may be the boost they need heading into the final month of the regular season.
The win lifted the Tigers to 10-7 overall and 3-2 in Indiana Collegiate Athletic Conference play and snapped a two-game losing streak. Hanover lost for the fourth straight time and fell to 10-6 overall and 1-3 in the ICAC.
The Tigers trailed 56-55 when Craig Stewart's three-pointer was off the mark, but Brad Stevens hauled down the rebound and scored on a reverse layin with 22 seconds left to give the Old Gold the lead. The Tiger defense held on in the closing seconds as Hanover turned the ball over with less than five seconds left and DePauw ran out the clock.
"I told them to keep this in perspective," a cautious Head Coach Bill Fenlon said. "Just because we won we can't think that everything is all right now. I thought they (Hanover) beat us to more loose balls than anyone has in a month."
It was apparent early that this one would be yet another battle in the ICAC war as in the first half alone the score was tied three times and the lead changed hands eight times. In fact, the two teams did nothing but exchange baskets over the first 10 minutes. Hanover took the lead for good in the half on Toby Carrigan's jumper with 8:48 left and extended the margin to as many as six points at 23-17 after Matt Linville's layup with 4:55 left. Hanover held a two-point lead at the intermission, 28-26.
The second half was much more of the same with six ties and 11 lead changes. The Panthers opened the half with a bucket to take a four-point lead and that was the largest for either team over the final 20 minutes.
Hanover held a 52-49 lead after Clarkston's layup with 4:16 left, but the Tigers put together a 6-0 run. Jess McKinney hit the second of two free throws with 3:58 left to make it 52-50 and Bowers tied it with a layup with an assist from Matt Gorrell at the 3:01 mark. After the Panthers were unable to convert on their end, Stewart buried a three with 2:28 left to make it 55-52 to equal the Old Gold's biggest lead of the game.
Jon Miller cut the lead to one with a pair of free throws, but McKinney was called for an offensive foul with 1:33 remaining. Toby Carrigan nailed both free throws to give the hosts a 56-55 advantage. Faced with pressure, the Tigers turned the ball over, but Hanover didn't take advantage as they were whistled for traveling with 56 seconds left. Hooker was fouled, but the Tigers still weren't in the bonus. The Tigers then got the ball to Stewart who missed the three-pointer, but Stevens was there for the game-winner.
"I thought the young guys played well. Jess, Brad, Burch all gave us good minutes and Kidd got his tooth knocked out and played five minutes with it in his mouth."
Hooker finished with 23 including 14 in the first half and nine in a two-minute stretch of the second half. Stewart added 15. Miller led Hanover with 13 followed by Clarkston and Matt Linville with 12 each. Clarkston grabbed a game-high eight rebounds, but was just two of nine from the line. Both teams shot 52 percent from the floor.
The Tigers host Franklin in the final game of the first half of conference play on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.