Written by Sports Information Student Assistant, Jake Sipes-Salter
HANOVER, Ind. - The Hanover men's basketball team will look to start its year on the right foot as they host Spalding (Ky.) at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 13.
SEASON AND HOME OPENERS: The Blue and Red have won two consecutive season openers and eight straight home-opening tipoffs. Among these were two contests against Spalding to open the Collier calendar in 2013-14 and 2015-16. Hanover has not fallen in its home opener since the 2010-11 campaign, a 68-55 loss to Wabash.
Last year, the Panthers started the home slate with an 84-83 victory over nationally-ranked Ohio Wesleyan that saw now-senior Cam Fails (Mason, Ohio) score 23 points while hitting four-of-five shots from three-point range.
PRESEASON POLLS: The Blue and Red are currently receiving votes in the D3Hoops.com preseason top-25 poll and are predicted to finish third in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. Hanover finished the 2017-18 schedule with a 22-7 overall mark that included a 14-4 conference record. Individually, Cam Fails, 2017-18 HCAC Player of the Year and D3hoops.com all-American, has received preseason national honors from D3Hoops, as well as Street and Smith's Basketball Yearbook.
The Panthers are no stranger to the rankings as of late: last season they were ranked fourth in the D3Hoops preseason survey and have been in the top-25 on 69 occasions since the organization began publishing rankings in 1999-2000.
CAM CAPTURING ATTENTION: Cam Fails has garnered honors for his last two seasons in the Blue and Red, including an all-region selection from D3Hoops to add to the repertoire of honors from the organization. In the conference, Fails captured HCAC Player of the Year and tournament most valuable player honors for his role in Hanover's second consecutive 20-plus win season.
Fails averaged career highs in points per game (18.6), field goal percentage (52.1%), three-point percentage (43.9%) and steals per game (1.7) in 2017-18. His performances also netted him two HCAC Player of the Week awards. Of those matchups was a 32-point outing in 30 minutes of action against Manchester.
LOGAN LOOKING AHEAD: Junior Logan Ratts (Martinsville, Ind.) started nine of 29 games for the Panthers last campaign and has averaged 5.6 points per game over his two-year career. In his sophomore showings, he posted an improved three-point shooting clip and rebounds per game pace. Additionally, Ratts is recording one steal per contest over his first two winters.
Ratts has 12 appearances in which he has been in double figures. His high in 2017-18 was a 13-point night at Transylvania, with his career-best of 26 points coming against Anderson in 2016-17.
HIBBARD HITS STRIDE: Sophomore Isaac Hibbard (New Albany, Ind.) came to be a key cog early into his tenure, starting 13 games his freshman year. Highlighting his stint was a four-contest run in which he hit double figures in each appearance. In that collection of games, Hibbard would set his season-best with 18 points on seven-for-nine shooting against Anderson. For the evening, Hibbard would also collect a personal-best three steals.
Overall, Hibbard had a 7.2 points per game average on 49.4 percent shooting for his first campaign, which included nine instances of 10-plus points.
BIG MEN PROVIDE SPARK: Hanover will look for solid showings from their big men, headed by veterans such as junior Ryan Cloncs (Danville, Ind.), junior Kevin Williams (Edinburgh, Ind.), and sophomore Connor Washburn (Fishers, Ind.).
Cloncs played valuable minutes for the Panthers in 2017-18, including his 11 points and five rebounds that helped the Blue and Red secure a 77-68 victory over Mount St. Joseph in the HCAC Tournament Semifinals.
Williams appeared in 27 of 29 Hanover outings last year, notching a trio of double-figure score lines. Amongst them were two 11-point totals in the opening three games, including an 11-point, seven-rebound performance against Spalding last November.
Washburn checked into 10 Hanover matchups in his freshman year, with a pair of notable performances. Washburn had four points and five rebounds in five minutes against Kent State-Tuscarawas along with a 12-point, six-for-six shooting night against Ohio-Chillicothe.
SCOUTING SPALDING: The Spalding Golden Eagles finished 9-15 in 2017-18 that included a 3-9 slate away from their home floor. The Panthers have won two consecutive games against Spalding and four out of five dating back to the 2011-12 season. In the 83-47 triumph for the Blue and Red last November, now-graduated Wes McKinney spearheaded the scoring with 18 points.
UP NEXT: Hanover will turn its attention to the Thomas More (Ky.) Jim Connor Classic, which will take place Friday and Saturday, Nov. 16 and 17. The Panthers are slated to compete against Akron-Wayne (Ohio) at 5:30 p.m. Friday, before sqauring off against Kent State-Tuscarawas (Ohio) at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Contact: Tyler Jester