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History Project: 1998-99 M-Basketball Reaches #9 in Poll

History Project: 1998-99 M-Basketball Reaches #9 in Poll

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Rose-Hulman Athletic History Project is designed to educate current Fightin' Engineer fans on the outstanding and unique history of Rose-Hulman and Rose Polytechnic athletics.  The Project will allow fresh content for the Rose-Hulman athletics website and social media channels during our athletic downtime caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.  We will start with one memory from each of Rose-Hulman's current 20 varsity athletic teams over the next 20 weekdays.  After the first 20 days, Rose-Hulman alumni and fans can have their memories become our daily "Rose-Hulman Athletic History Project" story by e-mailing us your story with one (appropriate for publishing) accompanying photo.

Mon. March 23 - Football (1958 season)
Tues. March 24 - Women's Soccer (2007 season)
Wed. March 25 - Baseball (1992 season)
Thurs. March 26 - Volleyball (2011 season)
Fri. March 27 - Men's Basketball (1976-77 season)
Mon. March 30 - Women's Outdoor Track & Field (2018 season)
Tues. March 31 - Men's Cross Country (2014 season)
Wed. April 1 - Women's Basketball (2015-16 season)
Thurs. April 2 - Men's Soccer (2013 season)
Fri. April 3 - Women's Cross Country (1995 season)
Mon. April 6 - Men's Tennis (2015 season)
Tues. April 7 - Women's Track & Field (2011 season)
Wed. April 8 - Men's Golf (1998 season)
Thurs. April 9 - Softball (2008 season)
Fri. April 10 - Men's Swimming & Diving (2014-15 season)
Mon. April 13 - Women's Tennis (2010-11 season)
Tues. April 14 - Men's Indoor Track & Field (2015 season)
Wed. April 15 - Women's Golf (2019-20 season)
Thurs. April 16 - Women's Swimming & Diving (2017-18 season)
Fri. April 17 - Men's Outdoor Track & Field (2008 season)
Mon. April 20 - Football (2016 season)
Tues. April 21 - Women's Soccer (2019 season)
Wed. April 22 - Baseball (2016 season)
Thurs. April 23 - Volleyball (2018 season)
Fri. April 24 - Men's Basketball (2012-13 season)
Mon. April 27 - Women's Outdoor Track & Field (2013 season)
Tues. April 28 - Men's Cross Country (2018 season)
Wed. April 29 - Women's Cross Country (2017 season)
Thurs. April 30 - Men's Soccer (2008 season)
Fri. May 1 - Women's Basketball (1995-96 season)
Mon. May 4 - Men's Tennis (2017 season)
Tues. May 5 - Women's Indoor Track & Field (2018 season)
Wed. May 6 - Men's Golf (2013-14 season)
Thurs. May 7 - Softball (2001 season)
Fri. May 8 - Men's Swimming & Diving (2017-18 season)
Mon. May 11 - Women's Tennis (2016-17 season)
Tues. May 12 - Men's Track & Field (2011 season)
Wed. May 13 - Women's Golf (2015-16 season)
Thurs. May 14 - Women's Swimming & Diving (2015-16 season)
Fri. May 15 - Men's Outdoor Track & Field (2016 season)
Mon. May 18 - Football (2015 season)
Tues. May 19 - Women's Soccer (2009 season)
Wed. May 20 - Baseball (2008 season)
Thurs. May 21 - Volleyball (2008 season)
Fri. May 22 - Men's Basketball (1998-99 season)

The last Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology athletic team to be ranked in the top 10 in NCAA Division III athletics?  That would be the memorable 1998-99 men's basketball team, led by head coach Jim Shaw and eventual Columbus Multimedia National Player of the Year Bryan Egli.  The year started with uncertainty and ended with one of the best seasons in the history of Fightin' Engineer athletics.

Rose-Hulman was a first-year member of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference entering the 1998-99 season.  The Fightin' Engineers had reached the NCAA Division III Tournament in 1996 and 1997, but after a disappointing 1997-98 season, a team filled with Terre Haute area talent was at a crossroads.  The legacy of a senior class - featuring three starters from Vigo County (Egli from West Vigo; Matt Millington from North; Sam Johnson from South) - would be defined in their final season as Fightin' Engineers.

The season started off with a 3-1 record entering a memorable first game in the SCAC.  Rose-Hulman traveled to Millsaps to face a team picked 6th in the preseason league standings.  But the Majors had picked up a transfer from NCAA Division I basketball between the preseason poll and the Rose-Hulman game.  And it was HOT in the fieldhouse-like gym at Millsaps.  A malfunction in the building had the gymnasium temperature at 83 degrees at game time.  This was after a 10-hour bus trip the day before from Terre Haute to Jackson, Mississippi, for the matchup.

Rose-Hulman led 31-27 at the half and tried to hang on in the end, but two late baskets by Millsaps forced overtime with the score tied at 64.  Rose-Hulman had a chance to win at the end of the first overtime, but a potential winning jumper rolled out.  Another overtime loomed in the sweltering heat, tied at 74.  Rose-Hulman wouldn't be denied in the second extra session, earning a 7-point lead before hanging on for the 88-85 win.  The stats were impressive.  Egli scored 28 points with nine assists in 39 minutes; senior Joe Puthoff scored 19 points in 46 minutes; Johnson scored 18 points in 33 minutes; sophomore T.J. Holmes scored 12 points in 36 minutes; and Millington had six points and eight rebounds in 40 minutes.

The SCAC featured another new aspect... lots of travel.  The draining Millsaps game was on a Friday.  After a 7-hour bus trip to Atlanta, Oglethorpe loomed on Sunday afternoon.  The Petrels were unbeaten and picked in the top half of the HCAC standings.  This was the ultimate confidence better.  Despite the travel and short rest, Egli scored 28 points and the Engineers rolled to an 84-69 win.

The train didn't stop rolling for a while after the Oglethorpe game.  The calendar flipped to 1999 with Rose-Hulman holding a 7-2 record and a 2-0 mark in HCAC play.  It would be 11 more games before Rose-Hulman suffered a loss.  The record reached 17-2, the winning streak reached 12 games, and the Engineers were a perfect 12-0 in SCAC play before finally falling to Rhodes on a home Sunday.  The Fightin' Engineers had reached No. 9 in the Top 25 poll on Feb. 1 and were a favorite to reach the NCAA Division III Tournament.

Rose-Hulman held a one-game lead in the league standings heading into a matchup at DePauw.  Offensively, the Engineers were struggling.  Well... other than Egli.  He finished 17-29 from the field and 7-11 from three-point range with 44 of Rose-Hulman's 69 points.  The best story?  In the midst of a hot streak, Egli dribbles in front of the DePauw bench to a logo on the floor.  DePauw coach Bill Fenlon - formerly head coach at Rose-Hulman - says something to the effect of "Bryan, you can't make it from there."  Egli stops - fires a random 30-foot shot from in front of coach Fenlon - buries it - and winks back at Fenlon.  In the end, DePauw had just a little too much on that night, winning 72-69 and giving Rose-Hulman no margin for error.

Due to the geography of the SCAC, there was not a postseason tournament in Rose-Hulman's first few years in the league.  The regular season champion would receive a bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament.  The Fightin' Engineers needed to win their final two home games to clinch a bid to the NCAA Tournament.  It would be Millsaps and Oglethorpe - a repeat of that early December trip - in the last home weekend.  Because of the NCAA Division III Tournament selection rules, these two games were a true back-to-back... Millsaps on Friday and Oglethorpe on Saturday.

Rose-Hulman cruised past Millsaps.  Egli scored 20 points, Millington poured in 19, and Johnson had 17 points and 10 rebounds in a convincing 76-61 win over Millsaps.  One more win needed for the championship bid, and the game featured Rose-Hulman hosting Oglethorpe.

Starters SHOULD be tired on a back-to-back.  Instead, Egli thrived on the tired defenders.  He scored 41 points on 15-25 from the field and 10-14 from the free throw line to propel the Engineers past Oglethorpe 86-74.  Puthoff was also in double figures with 14 points.  The Engineers were off to the NCAA Division III Tournament.

The NCAA Tournament game was unfortunately not Rose-Hulman's best night.  The Engineers shooting was off and host Maryville (Tenn.) won 66-59.  But the year was not dampened in the least.  Egli would be the Columbus Multimedia National Player of the Year, the SCAC Player of the Year and a first-team NABC All-Region selection.  And the senior class cemented its legacy - with three NCAA Tournament appearances and a visit to the National Top 10.  The class also split its career between two years in Shook Fieldhouse and two years in Hulbert Arena.  This was definitely a memorable era for the Rose-Hulman Fightin' Engineer men's basketball program.  

1998-99 (20-6, 15-3 SCAC)
Coach: Jim Shaw
SCAC Champions
NCAA Tournament
Moravian                     W, 64-53
Johns Hopkins (a)         L, 59-76
Aurora                         W, 70-61
IU-East                        W, 73-39
Millsaps (a)                  W, 88-85 (2OT)
Oglethorpe (a)              W, 84-69
Millikin (a)                    L, 83-86
Blackburn                    W, 65-51
Eureka (a)                   W, 75-73
Centre                         W, 71-46
Sewanee                     W, 66-52
Hendrix (a)                  W, 79-75
Rhodes (a)                  W, 70-60
Southwestern              W, 77-47
Trinity (Tex.)                W, 82-76
DePauw                       W, 56-50
Centre (a)                    W, 63-55
Sewanee (a)                W, 57-55
Hendrix                       W, 67-41
Rhodes                        L, 55-61
Southwestern (a)         W, 80-64
Trinity (Tex.) (a)           L, 58-63
DePauw (a)                  L, 69-72
Millsaps                       W, 76-61
Oglethorpe                  W, 86-74
Maryville (Tenn.) (a) $  L, 59-66
$ - NCAA D-III Tournament
(a) - away game