DEFIANCE, Ohio – It was a back-and-forth affair in the regular season finale for the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology men's basketball team. The Fightin' Engineers battled past a slow start Saturday afternoon to beat the Defiance College Yellow Jackets by a final score of 77-65. RHIT has now won seven of its last eight games heading into the Heartland Conference Tournament that begins next week. The win gives Rose-Hulman an overall record of 14-11 and a HCAC mark of 12-6.
Defiance started the game hot from three-point territory, burying five of their first eight attempts. The hot shooting left Rose-Hulman in an early 17-8 hole. However, the men battle back and tied the game up at 25 after an old-fashioned three-point play from Nick McGrail with 6:01 left to play in the half. After a few stops the Fightin' Engineers took a 28-25 lead after a triple from Collin Wojcik. Both teams used strong shooting to keep the game nearly even. At halftime Rose-Hulman led by just a point, 40-39.
Wojcik scored 11 of his 12 points in the first 20 minutes of action. RHIT shot 54.2% (13-24) from the field in the first half including 40% (4-10) from downtown. The Fightin' Engineer bench accounted for 20 of the 40 points scored in the opening stanza. Defiance buried 10 of 20 triples in the first half. However, the Yellow Jackets were only 3-13 (23.1%) shooting from two-point range.
Both the Engineers and Yellow Jackets got off to a slow start in the second half but Stephen Schueth knocked a three-pointer down at the 16:59 mark to give Rose a 45-41 advantage. Defiance tied the game up at 45 with 14:19 left to play but a John Czarnecki layup on Rose's next possession gave the lead right back to the Fightin' Engineers.
The game remained tight for much of the remainder of the second half. Rose-Hulman took a five-point lead at 5:09 mark after a steal and two made free throws by senior Wade Stallings. Rose-Hulman's defense stood tall and held Defiance without a made field goal for several crucial minutes towards the end of the contest. The Yellow Jackets made only two field goals in the final 6:33 of the game.
Rose-Hulman managed to withstand 14 Yellow Jacket triples. However, Defiance College shot only 33.8% (24-71) from the floor for the game. DC was just 4-24 from three-point territory in the second half. Rose-Hulman shot 46.8% (22-47) in the contest. The Fightin' Engineers came up clutch from the foul line knocking in 26 of their 30 free throw attempts, good enough for an 86.7% clip.
Leading the way for Rose-Hulman was junior Stephen Schueth who scored 18 points on the strength of 6-8 shooting from the floor and 3-5 shooting from three. John Czarnecki finished in double figures with 10 points and six rebounds. Wojcik added 12 points, seven rebounds, and five assists. 10 different Engineers scored in the game.
The men will look to continue their hot play next week in the HCAC Tournament. The men will square off with Transylvania on Friday February 24 at Hanover College. Tipoff is at 6 p.m.