HANOVER, Ind. – The Hanover men's basketball team trailed for nearly the first 15 minutes of the second half, but rallied to defeat North Central (Ill.) at home on Saturday evening, 64-63, advancing to the NCAA National Tournament Round of 16.
The Panthers (25-3) will be in the "Sweet 16" for the first time since the 2004-05 season and the third time in program history. Hanover's victory over NCC also ties the furthest run HC has had in the NCAA Tournament.
Saturday's have truly been Hanover's day as they improve to 13-0 with the NCAA second round victory. The team is now 7-6 in NCAA Tournament games all-time, while also improving to 5-1 in home national tournament contests.
Behind its largest crowd all season of over 1,400 people, including the Governor of Indiana, Eric Holcomb '90, the Panthers' mental toughness and overall grittiness showed as they erased a five-point deficit late in the second half with an 11-2 run. The scoring spurt was sparked with a layup from senior Corey Muchmore (Cincinnait, Ohio) and a steal and conversion from freshman Logan Ratts (Martinsville, Ind.), as HC led 56-52 with just under six minutes remaining.
A Muchmore put-back gave the Blue and Red their largest lead of the second half at 60-54 with two minutes left to play. The Cardinals (18-11) cut the lead down to two points, but a pair of free throws from junior Wes McKinney (Batesville, Ind.) made it 64-60 in favor of HC with less than one second remaining. North Central launched in a three prior to the buzzer going off.
McKinney scored a team high 18 points, as he was the main source of offense early, tallying nine of the first 15 HC points. The junior also recorded seven rebounds.
Muchmore recorded 17 points, while adding a team high nine rebounds. The senior, who is among the nation's best in field goal percentage, made 8-of-11 attempts on Saturday evening.
Sophomore Cam Fails (Mason, Ohio) posted 14 points, as he made multiple clutch shots down the stretch in isolation scenarios. Fails, Ratts and junior Colin Smith (Cincinnati, Ohio) all had two steals in the game.
Hanover made four of its first seven shots to take an early 10-3 lead in the first half. The Panther advantage expanded to as many as nine points, 24-15, with 6:50 remaining in the opening period. Hanover's lead was built on defense, as they forced NCC to just six makes in its first 21 attempts from the field.
The Cardinals responded however, as they grabbed their first lead of the contest after a 12-2 run gave them a 27-26 lead with 3:47 left before intermission. Hanover trailed 34-31 at the break.
Despite a 38-37 advantage in total rebounds, the Panthers allowed 14 NCC offensive boards, which resulted in 16 second chance points for the Cardinals. Both teams scored over 30 points in the paint as well.
The charity stripe was to the advantage of Hanover, as they made 11-of-13 (.846) attempts, including a perfect 7-for-7 in the second half. The Cardinals attempted just nine shots from the stripe all night, making five tries.
Hanover will look to advance past the Round of 16 for the first time in program history as they take on Hope (Mich.) on Friday, March 10 in Holland, Michigan at 7:30 p.m.