HOLLAND, MICH. -- Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology rallied from a 20-point second half deficit to close within seven points in the final minute, but Wheaton College held off the rally to earn a 64-57 victory in the first round of the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Tournament at Hope College on Friday night.
Senior Julian Strickland (Indianapolis/Pike) capped his career with 29 points to lead the Fightin' Engineer effort. Strickland and the Rose-Hulman seniors finish their career with an 82-29 record as the winningest class in program history.
Strickland finished 9-18 from the field and 11-12 from the free throw line, including 20 points in the second half. Sophomore Jimmy Miller (Indianapolis/North Central) added eight points and nine rebounds, and junior Michael Hallstein (Hopedale, Ill./Olympia) came off the bench for six points.
Strickland completes his career with 1,747 points to rank fifth in Fightin' Engineer history. His marks also include new school records for single-season free throws (204) and career free throws (426). Strickland also scored 648 points this year for the third most in a single season in Rose-Hulman history and the most by any Fightin' Engineer since 1970.
Tyler Peters led Wheaton with 21 points, with Brayden Teuscher adding 16 on 8-10 from the field. Peter Smith also scored 10 points for the balanced Thunder attack.
The two teams battled to a 10-7 score midway through the first half, before Wheaton went on an 11-5 spurt to take a 21-12 advantage. The Thunder relied on 53% shooting to push the edge to 34-20 at the break.
Wheaton pushed its lead to 42-22 and seemed in control, but Rose-Hulman showed its gritty comeback style once again. The Fightin' Engineers went on a 18-6 run over the next seven minutes to close within 48-40 on a layup by junior Corey Povaleri (Deputy, Ind./Madison) with 9:20 left.
The Fightin' Engineers closed to within eight points three times in the closing minutes, but Wheaton was able to score consistently enough to withstand the charge. Rose-Hulman closed within 64-55 in the final minute, but the Thunder was able to get two key defensive stops to secure the victory.
Rose-Hulman completed the season with a 22-6 record for the third winningest season in program history. Other school records this season include the Fightin' Engineers reaching the NCAA Division III Tournament for three straight years and crossing the 20-win mark for three consecutive years.