No. 7 Panthers survive late rally from No. 16 Ohio Wesleyan, win 84-83

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HANOVER, Ind. – Behind a strong overall shooting performance and 23 points from junior Cam Fails (Mason, Ohio), the No. 7 Hanover men's basketball team survived a late rally from No. 16 Ohio Wesleyan Wednesday evening, winning its home opener, 84-83.

The Panthers (4-1) jumped out to an early lead, 12-3, less than four minutes into the contest, forcing an Ohio Wesleyan (4-1) timeout. Hanover missed its first two attempts before making the next five, as a layup from senior Wes McKinney (Batesville, Ind.)capped the game-opening run.

For most of the remainder of the contest, the Blue and Red held a double-digit lead, but the Battling Bishops were able to close the gap to two points, 82-80, with just 2:25 remaining in the game.

Fails responded on the ensuing HC possession with two of his 13 second half points on a jumper. Neither side could gain any ground over the next few possession, but again, OWU pulled closer, trailing the Panthers 84-83 with 23 seconds left to play.

Hanover missed the front-end of two one-and-one foul shot opportunities, but a late OWU heave in the closing seconds from 35 feet away fell short, securing HC's second straight home win over a nationally ranked opponent.

The Panthers were hosting the 16th ranked Battling Bishop on the three-year anniversary of their last home game against a top 25 opponent in the D3hoops national poll. Hanover defeated then No. 5 Wooster (Ohio), 70-57, on Nov. 29, 2014.

Fails point total marked a new season high, giving him four straight scoring games in double figures. The junior made 9-of-14 attempts from the floor, including a 4-for-5 performance from deep, while also adding four rebounds and three assists.

Continuing the hot shooting effort for HC was junior Nick White (New Albany, Ind.), who made 7-of-8 field goal attempts and was also 4-of-5 at the charity stripe, totaling 18 points. White tied for the team high in rebounds as well, pulling down seven, along with senior Colin Smith (Cincinnati, Ohio). Defensively, the junior recorded a career-high three blocks as well.

Overall, Hanover finished with a .596 field goal percentage, including a .630 shooting clip in the second half. The Battling Bishops shot over 57 percent in the second stanza, finishing the game with a .507 field goal mark.

McKinney and senior Levi Buck (Pendleton, Ind.) were both plagued with first half foul troubles, as the duo finished with 10 points apiece, while also combining to make four shots from long-range.

Despite the slow start from the Panther seniors, Hanover led by as many as 15 points in the first half, as a three-pointer from Fails gave HC a 27-12 edge with just over eight minutes remaining before the intermission. The Panthers never trailed in the contest.

Another key statistic for the Blue and Red was bench points, as they outscored OWU, 21-11. The Panthers got strong efforts from sophomores Logan Ratts (Martinsville, Ind.) and Kevin Williams (Edinburgh, Ind.). Ratts finished with eight points, eight assists and four rebounds, while Williams added eight points and four rebounds. Ratts' eight assists also tied a career high, which he set on Dec. 30, 2016, against Ohio State-Lima.

Hanover has now won back-to-back games against nationally ranked opponents, with the last one coming against No. 18 Hope (Mich.) in the 2016-17 NCAA Division III Sweet 16. The Blue and Red have also won seven straight home openers, dating back to the 2011-12 season. The first win during the stretch also came against Ohio Wesleyan, where HC won the Nov. 15, 2011 contest, 70-58.

Hanover will now turn its attention to conference play, as they travel to face Franklin at 3 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 2.

Contact: Tyler Jester