In its past three games, all on the road, the Franklin College men’s basketball team took a giant step in its march toward the top of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference standings.
The Grizzlies took a step back against visiting Rose-Hulman, as the Engineers took an early lead and stayed out in front in their 58-42 win Wednesday night.
The loss left Franklin three games back of the league-leading Engineers, who improved their conference record to 8-1 and their overall mark to 14-2.
Rose-Hulman got out the gate quickly and took 16-5 advantage on the inside play of junior forward Julian Strickland and 6-foot-6 senior Brenton Balsbaugh.
Over the next five minutes Franklin’s team defense did a much better job of denying the basketball when the Engineers continued to go down low.
The Engineers went five minutes without scoring.
But the Grizzlies couldn’t take advantage and went the final 7½ minutes also without scoring.
At the 7:35 mark, junior guard Terry Sargent knocked down a 3-pointer, but the team didn’t score again until the second half.
Rose-Hulman led 23-13 at the halftime and used an 8-2 run during the first five minutes to increase its lead to 31-15.
While their 23 percent shooting in the first half let them down, Franklin continued to struggle and didn’t get its first field goal of the second half until junior guard Bailey Howard penetrated the middle for a layup with 14:57 left.
Senior guard Austin Weatherford and junior Julian Strickland combined for 36 points to lead the Engineers.
While Franklin picked up its shooting, Weatherford scored 10 points in a five-minute span to keep Rose-Hulman on top 44-30.
And just when the Engineers started to relax a bit, back came the Grizzlies.
Howard and junior Troy Porter made good from outside the arc with back-to-back 3-pointers and Sargent completed the traditional 3-point play on a fast-break layup to bring the Grizzlies with six at 46-40.
But on the next possession, Strickland hit a 3-pointer and junior guard James Pillischafske got free underneath for an offensive-rebound putback with three minutes remaining.
From there, the Engineers spread their offense and milked the clock.
Free throws at the end sealed the victory for Rose-Hulman, which has lost only one conference game, last Saturday to second-place Transylvania.