By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Carson Breckenridge heard the questions coming from all corners.
How could the Anderson University men’s basketball team generate any offense without star guard Phil Hogan?
It was a fair query in light of the senior’s team-high 26.9-point scoring average. No other Raven even reaches double figures.
But AU provided an answer just the same, using a committee approach during Saturday’s 75-70 loss against Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference rival Franklin.
“It was real important to show,” Breckenridge said. “We played real well together (offensively) without him.”
Four Ravens scored in double figures against the Grizzlies, and three more — including Breckenridge — finished with six points.
It’s going to take that kind of team approach to keep AU afloat in the conference race. Hogan is expected to miss at least two more weeks while he recovers from a broken hand.
The Ravens (7-6, 3-3 HCAC) enter today’s game at league-leader Rose-Hulman (12-1, 6-0) in a three-way tie for fifth place in the league standings. The top four teams at the end of the regular season qualify for the conference tournament.
With third place currently occupied by a two-team tie, there are five teams separated by one win battling for the final two postseason berths.
If AU is to emerge from that logjam, a pair of players with local ties will play an important role.
Breckenridge, a former star at Frankton, is averaging 4 points and 1.5 rebounds in 12.3 minutes per game. He’s joined in the post by former Madison-Grant star Nate Gross, the only Raven to start all 13 games so far this season.
Gross is averaging 7.6 points and five rebounds per game in his second college season.
“It’s great to be a sophomore and play as much as I do,” said Gross, whose 25.2-minute average is third on the team. “I’m trying to get better every day. I’m never satisfied.”
Gross made the decision to come to AU in part because it meant he’d still get to play often in front of friends and family. His parents have attended every home game, and his mother and stepfather even made the trip out to California for a recent tournament.
Gross can count on words of encouragement from his father after every contest.
“He’s asking me what I saw and telling me what he saw,” Gross said. “He’s helping me get better.”
Family life also played a big role in Breckenridge’s decision to attend AU. He commutes to campus every day from his Frankton home.
That brings with it several benefits, including daily home-cooked meals.
“My mom’s a great cook,” Breckenridge said. “So that does help a lot.”
With Hogan sidelined, the Ravens’ starting lineup includes four sophomores and a freshman.
It means the team could have better depth and versatility when Hogan returns. And it means the youngsters are getting valuable experience toward what looks to be a bright future.
“We definitely have to work hard in the offseason,” Gross said. “If we stick together, we can be a good team. We can be one of the top teams in the HCAC down the road. But right now, we have to take it one season at a time. We have to finish this one first and just keep getting better.”