Written by Sports Information Student Assistant, Jake Sipes-Salter
HANOVER, Ind. - Career-bests in scoring from juniors Alexis Nall (Mount Vernon, Ind.)and Kristin Mills (Cincinnati, Ohio) forefronted the Hanover women's basketball offense as they fought off Bluffton for an 89-80 victory at Collier Arena.
After a first half in which Nall was limited to seven minutes due to foul trouble, she rebounded in the second with 22 of her personal-record 34 points to aid in the win. Nall shot 11-of-14 from the floor and 10-for-11 from the free throw line, while adding eight boards and a trio of assists.
Off the bench, Mills dropped 15 points to lead the second unit. With her performance, it is the second time in four outings Mills has reached double figures, having done so on Jan. 16 at Mount St. Joseph, when she notched 11 points in 17 minutes of action.
Junior Maleha Motter (Danville, Ind.) added 12 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for her 15th double-double of the season.
With the win, Hanover improved to 13-6 overall including a 9-3 record in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. Simultaneously, Bluffton fell to 6-13 and 4-8 in interleague play.
The Panthers began the contest hot, and an early 11-0 run would put the Blue and Red on top 12-4 with 6:47 left in the first period. However, Bluffton responded with a 14-6 run of its own, and by the end of the quarter the score was knotted up at 18-all.
In the second frame, Hanover hit a few speedbumps: they suffered seven turnovers and were unable to make a run. As a consequence, the Beavers outscored HC 26-17 in the period to take a 44-35 lead at halftime.
Hanover started the third quarter with a spark, going on a 10-2 run to bring the score to 46-45 with 7:03 left in the third. From then until the end of the period, the two squads went back and forth, bringing the score to a 63-63 stalemate after the first 30 minutes.
After Bluffton hit a quick two-pointer to take the lead at the onset of the fourth quarter, the Panthers responded with an 8-0 run capped by a Nall layup off a pass from senior Avery Chezem (Loogootee, Ind.). This allowed Hanover to take a 71-65 lead with 8:40 remaining. While the run swung the momentum for the Blue and Red, the Beavers would keep it close, as they made it a one-possession ball game at the 6:25 and 4:33 marks.
However, the Blue and Red ultimately pulled away: with 3:23 left in the game, senior Claire Cromer (Wabash, Ind.) would convert an and-one opportunity to push a 78-72 Hanover advantage, which Bluffton did not recover from.
Both HC and BU shot 46 percent from the floor, with the Beavers holding a slight edge in three-point efficiency. Each squad also grabbed a similar amount of boards, with the Beavers holding a slight 36-33 advantage.
The major discrepancies lie in the steals and free throws categories: in interceptions, the Panthers snatched 20 steals to 13 for Bluffton. Cromer led the Blue and Red with five steals, giving her five of her seven career five-swipe games this season. Nall also tied a career-best mark with four steals. For free throws, both teams shot near 80 percent, but the Beavers went 13-for-16, while the Blue and Red accrued a 31-of-39 total from the charity stripe.
Hanover will look to capture its seventh triumph in the month of January when they travel to face Rose-Hulman at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 30.
Contact: Tyler Jester