TERRE HAUTE —
By David Hughes
Indiana State won’t be the only Terre Haute-based men’s basketball team hanging out in St. Louis later this week.
Rose-Hulman learned Monday that it will open the NCAA Division III tournament against North Central (Ill.) College at Washington University-St. Louis at 6:30 p.m. EST Friday, one day after ISU battles Southern Illinois in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament inside St. Louis’ Scottrade Center.
Rose, 20-8 after winning the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) tournament over the weekend at Transylvania, returns to the Division III tourney for the ninth time in school history and the first time since the 1998-99 season. The Engineers also are making their fourth trip to the Division III “Big Dance” in the Jim Shaw coaching era at the engineering institute.
Shaw told the Tribune-Star on Monday that he knows little about North Central (20-7), but he’s in the process of finding out more.
“I know they won the CCIW [College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin] and that’s all you really need to know about them,” he said of the Cardinals from Naperville, Ill. “They’re really disciplined, they’re really balanced and they shoot it really well. I think they play good Midwestern basketball like we try to play.”
Coached by Todd Raridon, North Central earned its NCAA bid by defeating No. 23-ranked Wheaton 75-58 in the CCIW tournament championship game Saturday. One of its regular-season triumphs was a 62-38 home rout of HCAC member Manchester on Dec. 30.
North Central’s balanced scoring attack features four players averaging between 11 and 14 points per game, highlighted by Landon Gamble at 13.5 ppg.
Rose-Hulman advanced to the Division III tournament with a 76-73 overtime win over top-seeded Transylvania in the HCAC title clash Sunday afternoon. Transylvania also was selected to the NCAA field of 62 teams Monday with an at-large bid.
Rose sophomore Julian Strickland was named the HCAC tournament’s Most Valuable Player after scoring a career-high 30 points in the championship victory. Strickland leads the team in scoring at 12.9 points per game.
“Julian was unbelievable,” Shaw reflected from his office Monday. “He saved his best for when we needed it the most. He played with a tremendous amount of energy over a 44-hour span [for three HCAC tournament games].
“I’m really proud of all our guys. We showed a great deal of toughness and resiliency to win an extremely challenging tournament in the most difficult way.”
Junior Austin Weatherford, who joined Strickland on the HCAC all-tournament team, ranks second on the Engineers in scoring at 12.7 ppg. Junior Jon Gerken bumped his average up to 7.2 ppg after posting a season-high 17 points against Transylvania.
Rose-Hulman completed the regular season ranked No. 2 nationally in defense, allowing 56.1 points per contest. The Engineers also recorded the fourth 20-win season in program history this year.
Shaw said his coaches and players watched the Division III tournament draw together on the ncaa.com website early Monday afternoon. He admitted they let out a cheer when they saw Rose-Hulman being announced as one of the participants.
“We cheered because it was visual confirmation that we had arrived, even though we already knew we were in,” the Engineers’ veteran coach explained. “It’s nice to see your name come up on the screen.”
Shaw said the team conducted a practice Monday — with normal intensity for some, light for others and nothing physical at all for the potentially weary Strickland, Weatherford and Gerken — then it will take today off completely. It will practice Wednesday in Hulbert Arena and Thursday in St. Louis. Rose is on a quarter break this week, meaning no classes.
No. 24-ranked Washington U. (19-6) and Buena Vista (17-10) will round out the four-team regional in St. Louis. The second-round matchup between Friday’s winners will take place at 8 p.m. EST Saturday.
NCAA Division III Tourney
Teams: Rose-Hulman (20-8) vs. North Central (Ill.) College (20-7)
Tipoff: 6:30 p.m., Friday
Site: Washington University, St. Louis