Kurtis Zimmerman - news editor emeritus
The crowd was ecstatic as the Engineers’ five seniors took the court for Wednesday night’s matchup against Franklin College. Though the starting five was different, the outcome was much the same for the Engineers, who extended their win streak to seven.
Rose-Hulman outscored the Grizzlies 72-63 to hit 20-2 overall and 14-1 in conference play, maintaining their two-game lead over rivals Transylvania University and Hanover College.
The Senior Night game honored fourth-year players Austin Weatherford, Nate Gissentanner, Jon Gerken, Brenton Balsbaugh, and Jordan Nielson. The five have seen the program ramp back up to consecutive 20-win seasons, along with a conference tournament championship and subsequent NCAA Division III Tournament berth.
Wednesday night, Rose-Hulman jumped out to a 13-0 lead, holding the Grizzlies scoreless in the first seven minutes of play. At the half, a strong offensive effort, including junior Julian Strickland’s 1,000th career point, pushed the Engineers out to a 37-20 lead. Strickland became just the 29th member of Rose’s prestigious 1,000-point club.
The second half featured 16 men taking the floor for the Engineers, including 11 in the scoring column, as Rose-Hulman held off Franklin to take the victory 72-63.
Weatherford led all scorers with 21 points, and Strickland added 17 off the bench. Gissentanner sank 16 points, grabbed five rebounds, and dished out three assists in the effort.
Wednesday night’s win came off a series-splitting victory over rival Transylvania University on the Pioneers’ home court Saturday afternoon. Rose sat one spot behind the Pioneers at No. 23 last week, before being pushed up four spots to No. 19 after a 54-49 victory on the road.
Prior to the matchup, Rose-Hulman’s only conference loss came against the Pioneers at home less than a month earlier. After the Engineers jumped out to a quick 16-5 lead in the first seven minutes of play, the Pioneers fought back to knot up the score at 24 points at the half.
Coming out of the locker room, Rose scored seven straight uncontested points to take a 31-24 lead, and the Pioneers could only come within a point before strong free throw shooting sealed the deal for the Engineers.
Weatherford once again led all scorers with 21 points and eight rebounds, and Strickland added 14 points; Balsbaugh rounded out scorers in double figures with 10 points.
Another victory could clinch a first-round bye in the HCAC Tournament for the Engineers, and a pair of wins would bring the tournament to Terre Haute for the first time in over a decade.
The Engineers will finish out their regular season schedule on the road, starting with Defiance College this Saturday. Rose will travel across the state to Earlham College next Wednesday, before rounding out their schedule against Hanover College one week from Saturday.