By ANDY WOLF
For a head coach who has set the bar so high for his team, Charlie Ernst felt Thursday was not his team’s best night.
But the University of Findlay men’s basketball team still earned a lopsided victory as the Oilers began postseason play.
The Oilers built a big lead early and later coasted to a 87-56 win over Kentucky Wesleyan in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference tournament quarterfinals at Croy Gymnasium.
“That’s the bar and standard we’ve set with this team,” Ernst said. “That’s a good sign, but we know we have to play much better tomorrow night.”
Findlay (25-3) will meet Ohio Dominican in the GMAC semifinals at 7:30 p.m. today at Croy Gymnasium.
Hillsdale and Lake Erie will square off in the first semifinal at 5 p.m.
Martyce Kimbrough backed the Oilers with 20 points while Taren Sullivan chipped in 16 points.
Yet, UF’s dynamic scoring duo each struggled through subpar shooting by their standards.
Kimbrough was 6 of 18 overall, including 3 of 10 from behind the 3-point line. Sullivan made 6 of 15 from the floor with several of his usual post-up shots just off the mark.
However, the Oilers weren’t short on offensive production or energy early on.
They mounted a peak lead of 47-15 at the 2:47 mark of the first half in large part to 11 points via turnovers and runs of 10-0 and 11-0.
“We came out with a lot of energy, played really hard,” senior point guard Austin Gardner said. “We knew what we had to do to get the win. Hopefully we have a few more games ahead.
“It got a little sloppy in the end of the first half, second half. I think we let them get to us a little bit, but overall, good win.”
Gardner didn’t miss any of his four shots and scored all nine of his points between the two runs.
Getting ahead by so much so early allowed Ernst to spread around the minutes, with nine UF players logging at least 17 minutes. The Oilers got 34 points off their bench to just nine for Kentucky Wesleyan (15-16), with all nine coming from Erik Bell.
“I thought our bench played well, especially in the second half,” Ernst said. “They moved the ball real well, got great shots and we made them defend us.
“The longer they have to defend us, the slower they are to take the ball up the floor.”
Aaron Overhiser (eight rebounds) and Matt Ashley (seven rebounds) each supplied 11 points off the bench. Ashley’s total matched his career high.
“He’s been getting better all year long,” Ernst said.
The Panthers could get no closer than 17 points in the second half.
Ernst never felt like his team delivered the knockout blow.
KWC closed the first half by making several tough jumpers after starting the game on a 4-of-25 shooting drought that included just one field goal over a 14-minute span.
They ended the final 2:30 on a 14-2 run capped by Rasheide Bell’s long, contested 3-pointer.
Ernst saw some of that momentum for KWC carry over into the second half.
“Even though it was a 20-point game most of the second half, it didn’t really feel like it,” Ernst said.
Bell and Evan Milligan led KWC with 16 points and one technical foul apiece — both in a span of two minutes late in the second half.
The Panthers made just 31.7 percent of their shots from the floor (19 of 60).
“We know who their best players were,” Ernst said. “We knew who we could help off of, show double-teams on. They took a lot of contested shots against double-teams, good defense and then we did a good job rebounding the ball.”
KENTUCKY WESLEYAN (15-16)
Milligan 6-16 2-2–16, Warnock 1-4 3-4–5, Quinn 3-4 1-2–7, Redix 1-6 0-0–3, R. Bell 5-17 3-4–16, E. Bell 5-17 3-4–16, Mumford 0-0 0-0–0, Overton 0-1 0-0–0. TOTALS: 19-60 12-16 — 56.
Sullivan 6-15 1-1–16, White 2-5 1-2–5, Gardner 4-4 0-0–9, Kimbrough 6-18 5-6–20, Kahlig 1-3 1-1–3, Smith 2-3 2-2–7, Schmock 1-4 2-2–4, Masterlasco 0-2 1-2–1, Wildermuth 0-1 0-0–0, M. Ashley 5-8 0-0–11, N. Ashley 0-0 0-0–0, Overhiser 3-7 4-4–11, Buford 0-1 0-0–0, Garverick 0-0 0-0–0. TOTALS: 30-71 17-20 — 87.
3-Point GOALS: Kentucky Wesleyan 6-22 (Milligan 2-6, Redix 1-4, R. Bell 3-7, E. Bell 0-4, Overton 0-1); Findlay 10-27 (Sulivan 3-4, White 0-1, Gardner 1-1, Kimbrough 3-10, Kahlig 0-2, Smith 1-1, Masterlasco 0-1, M. Ashley 1-4, Overhiser 1-2, Buford 0-1).
rebounds: Kentucky Wesleyan 37 (Milligan 9); Findlay 47 (White & Overhiser 8).
ASSISTS: Kentucky Wesleyan 12 (R. Bell 4); Findlay 15 (Gardner & Smith 3).
STEALS: Kentucky Wesleyan 3 (E. Bell 2); Findlay 13.
BLOCKS: Kentucky Wesleyan 5 (Redix 2); Findlay 1 (M. Ashley).
TURNOVERS: Kentucky Wesleyan 17; Findlay 10.
TOTAL FOULS: Kentucky Wesleyan 17; Findlay 12.
FOULED OUT: Kentucky Wesleyan (Warnock).
HALFTIME: Findlay, 49-29