By ANDY WOLF
A 5-0 start is “exciting” to Charlie Ernst.
As it should be.
And not just because it’s been a while.
The University of Findlay men’s basketball team is off to a perfect 5-game start for the first time since the 2010-11 season. The Oilers also moved up from 13th to ninth in the Division II coaches poll last week.
They’ve done it all with four new starters.
But Ernst, in his eighth season as head coach, isn’t reading much into it.
“Since we had a lot of question marks coming into the season, we as coaches were cautiously optimistic about our team,” Ernst said. “We’ve yet to be in a game where it comes down to the last possession or two. We know those games are out there.”
The first phase of an all in-region nonleague slate is over.
On to conference play.
Findlay travels to longtime and natural rival Tiffin (2-3) at 7:30 p.m. today in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference opener for both teams.
The matchup is not only Tiffin’s league opener, too, but its first GMAC game since leaving the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference last season.
The Oilers and Dragons didn’t play last season for the first time since 2005-06. Findlay holds a commanding 46-8 edge in the all-time series.
“I remember playing Tiffin when I was a player,” said Ernst, a 1992 UF grad. “It was always a game filled with a lot of emotion and intensity, and I’m sure tomorrow night will be no different.”
Tiffin lost each of its first three games by at least 14 points: at Maryville (98-84), vs. Missouri-St. Louis (96-80) and at Grand Valley State (97-81).
The Dragons rebounded by routing NAIA Carlow 142-81 and holding off Purdue-Northwest 95-83, both at home.
As a result, Tiffin is one of five Division II teams scoring (96.4) and allowing (91.0) at least 90 points per game.
Ernst said Tiffin’s pace matches first-year head coach Tom Church’s preference of an up-tempo style.
“The question for us is to decide how fast we want to play,” Ernst said.
Meanwhile, the Oilers have made their offensive mark through efficiency.
They’ve shot 45 percent in every game so far and are at 50.5 percent (35th nationally) this season.
All five starters are averaging in double figures. It’s not so much a goal of Ernst’s, but what he feels is reflective of the Oilers’ emphasis on being unselfish.
The biggest contributions are from the biggest players.
Six-foot-seven senior Alex White leads at 18.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.
Junior Aaron Overhiser, also 6-7, is next at 16.4 point per game and has led UF in scoring three times. Sophomores Anthony Masterlasco and Tommy Schmock each average 11.2 points.
Senior Trey Smith puts in 10.6 points per game with a team-high 10 steals.
“(Our players) are easy-to-coach guys,” Ernst said. “They love to play with one another. They care about each other off the court.
“I’m not sure any of our players get too worked up about who’s scoring and who’s not scoring.”
For Tiffin, sophomore guard Joshua Williams averages a team-high 18.4 points. Shane Waldon (16.4 ppg) and Austin Adams (15.2 ppg) also provide a scoring punch inside at 6-7 and 6-5, respectively.
Findlay’s women’s basketball team (2-0) will also take on Tiffin (2-3) at 5:30 p.m. today.
The Oilers comfortably won both nonleague contests over Wayne State (71-51) and Urbana (93-62). They’re the only unbeaten team left in the GMAC.
Senior forward Anna Hintz (22.0 ppg, 13.5 rpg) led UF in scoring and rebounding in both games. She became the 22nd member of UF’s 1,000-point scoring club against Urbana.
Seniors Lauren Ruth (11.5 ppg) and Elissa Ellerbrock (10.0 ppg) also average in double figures.
Sophomore guard Annie Santucci leads Tiffin at 14.8 ppg.
Her classmate and Liberty-Benton grad Jensen Hiegel (6.8 ppg) has started all five games.