By ANDY WOLF
There was no Division II school happier to have its basketball programs home than the University of Findlay.
Entering December, the women’s team had yet to play at home and the men did only once three weeks prior.
Both teams persevered for a pair of victories at Croy Gymnasium this past week over Walsh and Malone.
The men’s squad improved to 9-2 overall, the women at 7-1, with both off to a 4-0 start in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference.
Here’s a look back at the past week of action.
Walsh It All Away
It was Findlay’s men’s team that took the court first both times this past week.
The women’s team played first both times the previous week.
UF men’s coach Charlie Ernst said the switch forces them to take a new gameday routine.
He was a bit worried Thursday when his starters didn’t showcase the desired amount of energy from the get go.
“You add the stress of what’s coming up academically with all the travel and all the missed classes we’ve had, all the catchup taking place, and maybe that’s what I saw tonight from our team,” Ernst said. “Thank God we were at home.”
Fortunately, Ernst had the luxury of a deep bench to turn to.
While the starters scored at will, they were unable to get any separation on the also hot-shooting Cavaliers.
The UF reserves outscored Walsh’s reserves 22-16 in the first half with three players chipping in at least six points.
Aaron Overhiser had seven while Tommy Schmock and Matt Ashley had six.
It all added up to Findlay taking a 59-47 halftime dge.
“They’ve been that way for a good part of the year, especially the last four, five games,” Ernst said. “That’s what it’s important to keep Austin (Gardner) healthy (at starting point). I can keep that pack of dogs together; they operate pretty well as a unit.”
Of the bunch, Overhiser turned in a personal best scoring night with 15 points.
Three of his nine career makes from 3-point range came Thursday, in four attempts.
Ernst noted Overhiser (6-foot-8) as being one of the team’s best 3-point shooters in practice.
“We chart our 3-pointers and Aaron is in our top three or four on our team,” Ernst said. “When he makes those threes in games, it might surprise some people that are in the gym but it really doesn’t surprise our players and our coaches because we see it every day.
“He puts a lot of time into it. That’s the other thing. No one on our team puts any more time in the gym than what Aaron does. He’s getting what he deserves.”
For as many points as both teams put up in the first half, their defenses rose to the occasion in the second half.
Both teams made 15 field goals in the second half. Walsh needed six more shots (34) to get there.
“We knew we had to come out and play defense,” Overhiser said. “They hit some tough shots here and there but I think we can do better.
“(Ernst) always expects perfection out of us at that end. He’s not going to be happy until they score zero points.”
Next was the women’s turn.
The first quarter had been their strong suit all season long but it nearly didn’t start that way.
Lynsey Englebrecht and Anna Hintz each scored twice in a 13-0 run to help UF dig out of a 8-0 hole right off the bat.
“They just keep battling,” UF coach Jim Wiedie said. “It was only a matter of time before we start knocking down some shots and defended a little bit better and we were off and running.”
The Oilers managed to keep their streak of allowing 60 points or fewer in tact.
Walsh, playing without three-year starter and senior Brittni Clopton (11.1 ppg last year), shot just 39.3 percent with four starters committing at least three turnovers.
The Cavaliers largely had to rely on second-chance points (nine) and free throws (11).
“I thought Walsh did a really good job on the offensive boards,” Wiedie said. “We didn’t have any at halftime. … They did a really nice job of posting up Hochstedler (14 points) which was a really tough matchup for us.
“To hold them to 60 overall, I’m pretty pleased. If we can stay around that 58-point mark, we’re going to win a lot of games.”
On the flip side, UF had their third straight game of 20-plus turnovers with 21.
“I’m very concerned,” Wiedie said.
Findlay hadn’t topped 16 turnovers in its previous four games but suffered from several self-inflicted errors.
“At some point in time if we continue to kick it around the way we did tonight it’s really us,” Wiedie said. “It’s not so much the other team. Now, Walsh got a little aggresive there in the fourth quarter, started denying some things.
“And to win by double figures in all three of those games is very surprising.”
Pioneering a Win
Both teams had a little more work to do Saturday in putting away pesky Malone teams.
Neither team’s offense started quite the way it wanted.
The men’s squad faced some tough luck on the rim with multiple shots rimming in and out from all over.
That led to them shooting only 40 percent in the first half and, luckily for them, only a 38-36 deficit.
“We got back in the locker room and said we’re getting good looks, moving the ball well, we’ve just got to knock them in, stay confident, keep shooting,” senior guard Elijah Kahlig said.
UF’s Taren Sullivan did a little of everything for UF with 13 points, four rebounds and four assists by halftime.
The 6-foot-6 senior forward who totaled 18 points only took, and made, one shot in the second half but was still an big factor in collecting seven of his 11 rebounds to notch his third double-double of the season.
Instead, Kahlig and Martyce Kimbrough took charge and combined for 28 points in the second half with several clutch buckets along the way.
Kahlig got most of his in a spurt of four 3-pointers in the first six minutes. Kimbrough scored 10 points in the final nine minutes.
It was enough to stave off the Pioneers and the hot-shooting of Ty Jordan (41 points) for an 89-85 win.
The Oilers switched up their matchups regularly on Jordan to try to throw him off rhythm but he still finished with 21 in the second half.
“I got to give props to Jordan,” Kahlig said. “He’s a heck of a player and had a heck of a game. That’s not easy to come into Croy and do.”
The Oilers ended up outscoring the Pioneers 53-47 in the second half.
That margin turned out to be the exact final of the women’s game.
The UF women’s team endured its lowest offensive output of the season on a day where they held their second opponent under 50 points.
“It was ugly,” Wiedie said. “I thought for the most part, defensively, we did a pretty good job
“The goal was to hold them under 50 points and we did that. A little bit of lack of communication on the switchouts where they got some wide open looks on the three.”
Meanwhile, Wiedie noted Malone wasn’t a team that switched a lot on screens, contrary to facing plenty of teams this season that do.
“It was the offense that was really out of sync for some reason,” Wiedie said. “Malone is not a team that really comes up and pressures you.”
Junior forward Christa Puthoff agreed it was a slower night on offense than it had been all season long.
“We weren’t as aggressive on offense as we have been the past couple games,” Puthoff said. “We passed up some shots, especially in the first half. We just had to refocus in, look at what they were giving us and take advantage when we had it open.”
Malone pulled within 38-35 with one quarter to go.
But the Oilers responded with their best shooting quarter (5 of 9) of the night while holding the Pioneers to their worst (3 of 11).
“We definitely have done a much better job of staying aggresive defensively no matter what,” Puthoff said. “Especially putting more importance on stops when we’re not scoring offensively. We huddle more on the court and bring it together to try and control our emotions.”
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