Fast start sends men's basketball to 78-55 win over Bluffton, top spot in HCAC

Ryan Cloncs

HANOVER, Ind. – The Hanover men's basketball team scored on its opening six possessions and the starting unit combined for 70 points, as the Panthers cruised to a 78-55 triumph over Bluffton Saturday in a battle between two of the top three teams in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference standings.

The Panthers netted their opening five field goal attempts and added a pair of free throws on their other possession to capture a 14-2 lead less than three minutes in. Hanover's starting five also accounted for 90 percent of the offense in the win.

With the win, the Blue and Red improve to 15-4 overall and 10-2 in HCAC play, while also extending their longest winning streak of the season to seven games. After Transylvania defeated Rose-Hulman at home Saturday, HC now sits alone atop the conference standings.

Senior Cam Fails (Cincinnati, Ohio) paced the Panthers in scoring Saturday with 21 points, 17 of which came in the first half. Fails added seven assists as well. The senior now has five games this season where he has recorded at least 19 points and five assists, four of which have come in the past six outings.

Logging a season-high 13 points was junior Ryan Cloncs (Danville, Ind.). Cloncs also led the team with a career-best eight rebounds. The junior made five-of-seven field goals in the contest, including two makes from three-point territory.

Sophomore Isaac Hibbard (New Albany, Ind.) and junior Kevin Williams (Edinburgh, Ind.) both finished in double figures as well, recording 15 and 12 points, respectively. Junior Blake Robertson (Greenfield, Ind.) rounded out the starting unit with nine points on three makes from deep.

With its efficient shooting start, Hanover never trailed against the Beavers (14-5, 8-4 HCAC), who entered the contest tied with the Panthers for the best overall record in the conference.

The two sides shot a combined 61.7 percent from the field in the first half, but thanks to 28 combined points from Fails and Cloncs, HC led 48-29 at the intermission. The duo was key in leading the Blue and Red to .654 shooting clip over the first 20 minutes, combining to make 9-of-12 field goals, including 5-of-8 from deep. Cloncs netted one of his treys as time expired on the half.

In the second stanza, Bluffton would cut the Hanover lead to 16 points on five separate occasions but could never get any closer. Leading by 16 with 2:46 remaining, the Panthers held BU scoreless for the rest of the contest, lengthening their final margin to 23 points, 78-55.

Overall, HC made 26-of-45 (.578) shots. Bluffton also shot over 50 percent, but the Blue and Red made six additional three-pointers and enjoyed a 13-point edge at the foul line. Hanover also turned 14 BU turnovers into 22 points, while the Beavers could only accumulate nine points on 11 HC giveaways.

The Panthers will look to close out the month of January by continuing their win streak to eight games. After defeating Bluffton, Hanover will have a chance to avenge its only other HCAC loss when the team welcomes Rose-Hulman for a 7:30 p.m. start, Wednesday, Jan. 30.

Contact: Tyler Jester