Excitement permeated throughout O.C. Lewis Gymnasium for Saturday’s HCAC doubleheader between the Ravens and the visiting Hanover College Panthers. The women’s team entered Saturday still searching for their first win, but had been inching closer to the win column their last few appearances. The men’s team rolled into Saturday winners of five straight contests, three of which came in conference play. Even after both games were pushed back to the evening due to inclement weather, the AU faithful still packed the house hoping to see the Ravens notch two huge wins.
The first 10 minutes of basketball couldn’t have gone better for AU. Hanover came in 5-2 in conference play, but the Ravens looked every part of the Panthers’ equal. Although only seven players were dressed in uniform, the Ravens ended the first quarter tied with Hanover 20-20. Jordan Ware scored five points and added three assists in the first quarter alone.
From that point forward, it was all Hanover. After scoring 20 points in the first 10 minutes, AU was only able to add 24 more over the final 30, falling by a final score of 79-44.
“It’s tough to do what these women are doing and our coaching staff is encouraged by their willingness to keep pushing forward,” said AU coach Lindsay Shade. “The bright spot of the day was the first quarter. It may have been one of the best offensive quarters we played all year.”
The tide turned when Hanover unveiled their full-court press. Anderson averages over 30 turnovers a game, but limited themselves to only five in the first quarter. Once the Panthers put on their press, Anderson turned it over 29 times in the final 30 minutes.
“Hanover is a tough team with a lot of depth and talent,” Coach Shade said. “Unfortunately, they put on their press in the second quarter and were able to wear us down and pull away.”
Ryana Watson was the lone Raven in double figures, recording 14 points. Jordan Ware just missed out on a double-double, contributing nine points and eight rebounds.
Even more fans filed into O.C. Lewis during the break between games, creating an atmosphere that hasn’t been felt in the gym since last season’s home stand against Hanover.
In just over six minutes, the Panthers sucked nearly all the air out of the building, racing out to a 17-5 lead.
“We got of to a very slow start at the beginning of the game,” said Coach Owen Handy in a press release. “We looked very lethargic at both ends and built ourselves a 12-point hole.”
After calling his third timeout with 13:17 remaining in the half, Coach Handy inserted Cory Kreiger, Wes Davidson and Maurice Knight into the lineup for the Ravens. AU responded by going on a 15-4 run, cutting the Hanover lead to one. The remainder of the first half was tight, and the Panthers clung to a three-point lead at the half.
The Ravens tied the game at 41 with 16:13 left on a layup from Stanley Duncan. This was the first tie since 0-0.
Shortly after, All-American and reigning HCAC Player of the Year Wes McKinney found his stroke for Hanover. After being held to only six points in the first half, McKinney erupted for 22 second half points, including a massive four-point play to extend Hanover’s lead back to double digits.
The second half lead grew to as much as 15 with 3:45 to play. The resilient Ravens trimmed the lead to five with 40 seconds remaining, but could draw no closer, eventually falling 81-74.
“We made a few too many mistakes on both offense and defense down the stretch,” said Kreiger. “They capitalized on them.”
The most glaring issue offensively was the lack of ball security shown by the Ravens, as they committed 19 turnovers and recorded only six assists. Defensively the Ravens were unable to lock in for the full 40 minutes.
At times, they had the Panthers flustered, constantly battling back from big deficits and holding the Panthers multiple trips without scoring. At other times, they looked lost defensively, losing McKinney and other Panther shooters and allowing uncontested triples.
Kreiger explained that the Ravens have to “be ready to play from the tip and focus for the full 40 minutes” next time out in order to get back on track.
Trevor Lucas again led the Ravens in scoring, racking up 22 points on 6-13 shooting. He knocked down all eight of his free throw attempts. Stanley Duncan recorded 19 points, leaving him 15 shy of becoming AU’s 38th member of the 1,000-Point Club. Malik Laffoon added eight points and four of the team’s six assists. Freshman Maurice Knight continued to show growth, adding nine points and three rebounds, as well as solid minutes on the defensive end.
Both the men’s and women’s teams have a chance to right the ship tonight. The women will travel to Terre Haute to take on the 12-3 Rose-Hulman Fightin’ Engineers. The Engineers are undefeated in HCAC play.
The men will welcome Rose into O.C. Lewis. The male Engineers are 8-7 on the season, but are in a three-way tie with Hanover and Transylvania for second in the conference, sitting at 6-2.
Both games will begin at 7:30 p.m.