2015-16 slate concludes in HCAC quarterfinal thriller

DEFIANCE, OH. – A pair of 20-point-plus efforts from senior forward Matt Brown (Hobart, Ind.) and freshman guard Adrian Johnson (Indianapolis, Ind.) led Manchester University’s attack in a Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tourney quarterfinal Friday, Feb. 26.

In a back-and-forth game that saw both sides hold leads throughout 40 minutes, Rose-Hulman Institute took the final edge on a turnaround jumper in the lane as the buzzer went off at Defiance College of Ohio’s Karl H. Weaner Center for an 82-80 decision.

The first of two conference tournament quarterfinal clashes was a game full of runs. MU, seeing a strong campaign conclude at 13-13 with their first league postseason tournament berth since 2011, struck first when they pulled out to a 7-0 lead within the first two minutes. The lead didn’t last long, as Rose-Hulman struck back to take the lead 24-15 with 9:15 left in the first half. However, the Spartans, led by the three-point performance of Brown in the final nine minutes of the opening frame, dominated the Fightin’ Engineers in the span for a 45-39 halftime lead.

Fourth-seeded Rose-Hulman came out of halftime firing on all cylinders, going on a 13-6 stretch for a 52-51 advantage with 16:30 left in the game. The fifth-seeded Black and Gold responded with a 13-2 roll to hold a 64-54 cushion with 12 minutes left in the game. However, the home side was able to fight their way back and tied the game up at 80-80 with 36 seconds left in the game. MU had an opportunity to take the lead in the closing seconds, but a lay-up was blocked and went out of bounds with Rose-Hulman having possession to set up the final 12 seconds.

Brown, wrapping up his collegiate career with a three-game run that saw him average 24 points per game due to hitting a meteoric 65.7 percent from the field, 57.1 percent from outside the arc and 87.5 percent at the charity stripe, drilled double-figure field goals for the second time in the span in route to his team leading numbers’ total. Johnson wrapped up a glowing freshman campaign, equaling the program’s single-season freshman scoring mark (473 points) due to gathering double-figure points seven times in the last eight contests. Sophomore forward/center Enis Becirevic (Fort Wayne, Ind.) added 11 points, registering a 50 percent or better field goal effort for the eighth time in the last nine outings.

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