Men's basketball looks to continue strong start at Jim Connor Classic

Carlos Garcia

HANOVER, Ind. – The Hanover men's basketball team closes the opening week of its schedule with a pair of neutral-site games at the Thomas More (Ky.) Jim Conner Classic this Friday and Saturday, Nov. 16 and 17.

SETTING THE SCENE: Hanover will begin tournament play at 5:30 p.m. Friday against Akron-Wayne (Ohio). The Blue and Red will then square off with Kent State-Tuscarawas (Ohio) at 1 p.m. Saturday. Both games will take place on the campus of Thomas More, inside the Connor Convocation Center.

SUCCESSFUL SEASON OPENER: The Panthers are coming off a 78-55, season- and home-opening victory over Spalding (Ky.) this past Tuesday night inside Collier Arena. The win marked HC's third straight season-opening win, as well as its ninth consecutive triumph in a home opener. Hanover will look for a pair of wins this weekend to move to 3-0, a feat they have accomplished in each of the past two years, both of which have resulted in NCAA Division III National Tournament appearances.

PANTHERS IN THE POLLS: Over the last few seasons, Hanover has been a common name in and around the national top 25 poll produced by The Blue and Red are currently in the receiving votes category for the 2018-19 preseason poll. Overall, HC has been ranked inside the top 25 of the D3hoops poll 69 times, the most of any Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference institution. The Panthers were also picked to finish third in this year's conference preseason coaches poll.

CAM CAPTURING ATTENTION: Senior guard Cam Fails (Cincinnati, Ohio) garnered national recognition from multiple organizations prior to the start of the 2018-19 campaign. D3hoops, as well as Street & Smith's Basketball Yearbook, selected Fails as a preseason All-American. The senior is coming off a 17-18 season that saw him average career highs in points per game (18.6), field goal percentage (.521), three-point percentage (.439) and steals per game (1.7) en route to being tabbed HCAC Most Valuable Player and a D3hoops All-American.

HIBBARD NETS FIRST DOUBLE-DOUBLE: Sophomore Isaac Hibbard (New Albany, Ind.) could not have asked for a better start to his second season with the Blue and Red as he tallied 16 points, as well as a career-high 12 rebounds for his first collegiate double-double. The sophomore also tied a career-best mark with four assists. Shooting 7-for-11 from the field, Hibbard fell just two shy of his career-high point total of 18. He is fresh off his first campaign with HC, where he started 13 games, averaged 7.2 points per contest and shot 49.4 percent from the field.

HARP SHINES IN COLLEGIATE DEBUT: Freshman Zach Harp (Cincinnati, Ohio) paced the Panthers in the season opener with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Over the past decade, Harp's 19 points are the most of any freshman player at Hanover in their debut game. The freshman guard comes to HC from Elder High School in Cincinnati.

WASHBURN PERFECT FROM THE FIELD: Sophomore Connor Washburn (Fishers, Ind.) produced 10 points off the bench against Spalding, as he made all four of his field goal attempts. Washburn's 10 points were two shy of tying his career high, which he set against Ohio-Chillicothe last season. In his two career double-digit scoring performances, Washburn is a perfect 10-for-10 shooting. Over 11 career appearances, the sophomore is now up to a .645 shooting clip.

FRESHMEN PROVIDING OF THE BENCH: Hanover tallied 31 bench points Tuesday night, thanks in large part to the efforts of Washburn and freshman Carlos Garcia (Mason, Ohio). Garcia recorded seven points to go along with four rebounds in his collegiate debut. Other freshmen to score their first official points were Christian Stewart (Clarksville, Ind.), Addison True (Carthage, Ind.) and Noah Williams (Jeffersonville, Ind.).

PASSING ATTACK: The Panthers produced 21 assists on 30 field goals in the season opener, good enough for a helper on 70 percent of made shots. Fails and junior Logan Ratts (Martinsville, Ind.) tied for the team high with six assists each, while Hibbard and junior Blake Robertson (Greenfield, Ind.) picked up four dimes apiece. Sophomore Jackson McHugh (Indianapolis, Ind.) recorded the final assist on a nice dump off pass in the post.

BRANCHING OUT: The Blue and Red will be facing a pair of Ohio university branch campuses this weekend. The Panthers have faced three such opponents in the past two seasons, outscoring their foes by a combined total of 314-168, a plus-48.7 average scoring margin. Hanover has not scored fewer than 93 points or given up more than 65 during the stretch.

Akron-Wayne, who has won two straight, enters the weekend with a 2-1 record. Kent State-Tuscarawas is 1-4 overall. The Panthers did face KSU-T in last season's opening game, a 103-49 triumph for HC.

UP NEXT: The Blue and Red return home for a showdown with No. 21 Wooster (Ohio) at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 20. The Panthers and Fighting Scots have not met in Collier Arena since a 70-57 Hanover win in November of 2014. Wooster though, did compete inside Collier Arena during the opening round of the 2016-17 NCAA Division III National Tournament against North Central (Ill.) and defeat HC at home last winter, 87-79.

Contact: Tyler Jester