HANOVER, Ind. – The Hanover men's basketball team closes out the November portion of its schedule Wednesday evening with a trip to Ohio Wesleyan.
SETTING THE SCENE: The Panthers (3-1) and Battling Bishops (2-2) are slated for a 7 p.m. start Wednesday, Nov. 28, inside Branch Rickey Arena. Both sides are looking to bounce back from a recent loss and take a win into the start of their respective conference seasons, which begin this weekend.
SERIES HISTORY: Hanover and OWU have met just seven times in their program histories, with the Blue and Red holding a slight 4-3 advantage all-time. The Panthers gained the edge in the all-time series after defeating the Battling Bishops at home last season, 84-83, in a battle of top-20 nationally ranked teams. The last time HC visited Delaware, Ohio, they fell victim to an 88-79 decision. The home team has fared well in the series, as the lone true-road win was by Hanover in 1992, with a score of 71-63.
STRONG NOVEMBER STARTS: The Panthers have shown the ability to get off to solid starts during the opening month of November. Hanover is already 3-1, a feat they have now accomplished in each of the last three years and six of the last eight. The Blue and Red were 3-1 in 2016-17 en route to an 11-1 start, while last season's squad finished November 4-1. Both teams eventually qualified for the NCAA Division III National Tournament.
CAM CLIMBING SCORING LIST: Senior guard Cam Fails (Cincinnati, Ohio) continues to climb the program's all-time scoring list. The senior posted 20 points last time out against nationally-ranked Wooster (Ohio), moving him past current Hanover assistant coach, Ryan Nowicki ('13), for 20th all-time with 1,259 career points. With a double-digit performance Wednesday, Fails can move past Kevin Bell (1982-86) for 19th on the scoring list. Fails has posted 18-plus points in each of the last three outings, improving his team-high average to 16.0 per game. The guard is adding 4.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.0 steal per game through four appearances this season.
HARP FROM DEEP: Freshman Zach Harp (Cincinnati, Ohio) has gotten his collegiate career off to a strong start, as he is averaging 13.5 points per contest. Harp is doing most of his damage from behind the arc, where he is making four attempts per game, which leads the HCAC and ranks 22nd nationally. The freshman is shooting .571 from deep, ranking second in the conference and 30th in Division III. Harp already has a 20-point performance in his brief collegiate career.
HIBBARD STUFFING STAT SHEET: Sophomore Isaac Hibbard (New Albany, Ind.) has been a key cog for HC this season, averaging 8.8 points per contest, to go along with team-high marks in rebounds, 6.8, and assists per game, 3.5. The sophomore guard also leads the HCAC and ranks fourth nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio, with a rating of 7.00. Hibbard also tallied his first career double-double earlier this season, posting 16 points and a career-high 12 rebounds in the season-opening win over Spalding.
BENCH PROVIDING: The Panthers are getting nearly 20 points per game from their bench, but the reserves have been productive in all facets of the game. Junior Logan Ratts (Martinsville, Ind.) trails only Hibbard in the conference standings for assist-to-turnover ratio, as he sits at 3.3 through four games. The junior is pitching in with 3.3 points, 3.3 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 1.0 steal per game.
Adding to the team scoring off the bench have been freshman Carlos Garcia (Mason, Ohio) and sophomore Connor Washburn (Fishers, Ind.), who are averaging 8.0 and 6.8 points per game, respectively. The duo is also combining for seven rebounds per contest.
DOMINATING DEFENSE: Hanover's early season success can be attributed to its efforts on the defensive end of the floor. The Panthers are allowing just 56.5 points per game, which leads the league and ranks third in Division III. Thanks to a strong defensive effort, HC has a plus-22.0 average scoring margin. Hanover also leads the conference and ranks among the top 20 nationally in field goal percentage defense (.359) and average rebounding margin (+13.0).
SCOUTING THE BATTLING BISHOPS: Ohio Wesleyan enters Wednesday's non-conference contest with a 2-2 record and is coming off a 90-81 road loss at Capital (Ohio) on Sunday. The Bishops split their two-game stretch in the NCAC-OAC Challenge, defeating Otterbein (Ohio) in their lone home game of the season, 82-76. Additionally, OWU has defeated then No. 7 Springfield (Mass.), 80-66, and lost to Chicago (Ill.), 82-70.
The Bishops are averaging 78.2 points per game and are giving up just under 79 points per contest through four outings. Leading the charge has been Grant Gossard, who is averaging a team-high 13.8 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.
Ohio Wesleyan is coming off a 19-9 season last winter. The Bishops have won three of the last four North Coast Athletic Conference regular season championships and their last NCAA Tournament appearance came in 2015-16, during a run to the Sweet 16.
UP NEXT: Conference play begins for the Panthers as they welcome Franklin for the HCAC-opener at 3 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 1. Hanover has won four straight HCAC openers, including a 75-68, road triumph at Franklin last season.
Contact: Tyler Jester