By ANDY WOLF
Martyce Kimbrough’s goal is to be a 90 percent free throw shooter every year.
That plateau is often considered to be elite for the category.
But the University of Findlay senior guard has already missed more free throws (eight) this season than all of last (five) and nearly his entire career (12).
“I try not to get too worried about it because it happens and I’m confident in my shot,” Kimbrough said.
He’s still going to work on it. Just as he always has.
Kimbrough took Tuesday, an off-day for the team, to remedy an uncharacteristically cold start from the charity stripe.
“If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready,” he said.
His 8-for-16 stretch to begin the season has dropped his career rate from 92 percent entering (138 of 150) to 88 percent.
He’ll need to make 64 straight just to hit 90 percent this year.
Kimbrough has never been a stats-oriented guy.
He’s still scoring 16.0 points per game during Findlay’s 5-2 run through a gauntlet of a nonleague slate.
The Oilers picked up several wins against quality programs before falling twice to Lake Superior State (78-73) and No. 2 Ferris State (69-68) by six total points.
“After those losses we never really held our heads down,” Kimbrough said. “If anything, it gave us more of a belief on how good we can be if we keep at it.”
Up next is Findlay’s first-ever Great Midwest Athletic Conference game.
What better way to open than against a Kentucky Wesleyan team that has won 45 of 52 all-time GMAC contests?
The game is slated for an 8:30 p.m. tipoff at the Owensboro Sportscenter in Owensboro, Kentucky. The Panthers are riding a 48-game home winning streak since last losing Nov. 29 to Truman State in the 2014-15 season.
“I’m nearly certain (the matchup) was by design,” UF coach Charlie Ernst said. “Which is fine. I think it makes total sense.”
The two teams have only met twice. The Panthers, who have a record eight Division II national titles, prevailed both times in the second round of back-to-back NCAA tournaments in the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons.
Kentucky Wesleyan, hit hard by graduation, is 3-4 overall, so far.
Long-time head coach Happy Osborne took a leave of absence from the team due to health concerns and later resigned 11 days later on Monday.
Osborne compiled a 102-28 record with two NCAA tournament appearances.
Jason Mays, who acted as head coach during Osborne’s absence, has been named interim head coach.
“I know there’s been a lot made about this game,” Ernst said. “There’s always buildup when Kentucky Wesleyan plays home games and I’m sure they’ve been pointing at this game for quite a while.”
KWC is coming off a pair of home victories over Shorter (88-78) and Delta State (74-44) in its Thanksgiving Classic.
Meanwhile, the Oilers have had just one home game — an 84-82 win over last year’s runner-up Fairmont State.
Their two most recent games are their only two true road games: the loss to Ferris State and a 75-65 win over Northwood — both former Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference foes.
“We’ve developed a routine and a little bit of a comfort level and knowing how to be successful,” Ernst said of playing on the road.
KWC and Findlay both opened their seasons at the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame Classic.
The Panthers split their games between Montevallo (76-74 win) and Southern Indiana (88-75 loss) while the Oilers knocked off two preseason top 10 teams in Indiana (Pa.) and St. Thomas Aquinas.
Kentucky Wesleyan averages 73.7 points per game with six guys averaging at least 8 points per game.
Rasheide Bell (11.7 ppg), Brandon Hatton (11.6) and Harold Cardwell (11.6) all average double figures as juniors.
Hatton (6-foot-2 guard) is a Division I Vermont University transfer.
Ernst feels KWC is still searching for its offensive identity with three of its top four scorers graduating from last season’s NCAA tournament team.
Meanwhile, senior Taren Sullivan has backed UF with 17.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game.
Elijah Kahlig’s hot shooting has continued, canning 45.7 percent (21 of 46) from 3-point range in averaging 11.6 ppg.
Junior Trey Smith (4.4 ppg) started three games at point in Austin Gardner’s absence, totaling 15 assists to one turnover with multiple steals in each game.
“Trey played really well, to be honest,” Ernst said. “We felt like as an upperclassman he earned the right to start. Where it affected us, he and Tommy (Schmock) had become a big weapon on our team coming off the bench.”
Gardner returned to play 18 minutes in the Northwood win.
Schmock, a true frosh, is second on the team with 12 steals in 133 minutes.
The UF women’s team (3-1) also starts GMAC play against Kentucky Wesleyan (4-0) with tipoff set for 6:30 p.m.
Findlay’s Anna Hintz (18.8 ppg) and Haley Horstman (17.8) have been unstoppable offensively thus far.
Horstman has reached at least 16 points in every game while tallying 3.3 assists and a steal per game.
Hintz is shooting 58.7 percent from the field and is taking advantage of her free throw trips (21 of 25).
Senior guard Lynsey Englebrecht (11.5 ppg) has kept up her 3-point shooting prowess at 39.4 percent (13 of 33).
Keelie Lamb leads KWC at 17.8 ppg.