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Men’s Basketball: It’ll be bombs away for the Oilers

By ANDY WOLF
STAFF WRITER
Good things not only come in threes, but also 3-pointers.
It’s been especially true for the University of Findlay men’s basketball team which returns one of the best 3-point shooting trios in the country.
Seniors Elijah Kahlig, Martyce Kimbrough and Taren Sullivan provided an unrivaled volume and efficiency from downtown as juniors.
They’re largely why the Oilers set a school record with 312 made 3-balls, combining for 254 of that total.
In perspective, only 80 of the 302 Division II teams hit 254.
Kimbrough led the way with a UF record 114 on 282 attempts (40.4 percent).
Kahlig chimed in 76 triples in 184 shots (41.3) while Sullivan canned 64 of 143 (44.8).
That makes Findlay the only team returning three players who made at least 60 3-pointers with each connecting on at least 40 percent.
“Obviously it all starts mentally,” UF coach Charlie Ernst said. “All three of those guys believe every shot they take is going to go in.”
Only Adelphi’s trio of Michael Coffey (108), Jack Laffey (103) and Conor McGuinness (55) have made more (264) and only Michigan Tech’s Jordan Chartier (91), Kyle Monroe (58) and Tommy Lucca (58) topped 200 while all shooting 40 percent.
The 3-pointer is a big facet of the Oilers’ offensive game, almost hinging on living and dying by it.
They averaged 10 made threes in their 25 wins compared to just under eight in their seven losses.
In all, 35 percent of their 2,638 points came from downtown.
“It starts with just the offseason shooting, just knowing the work we put in in the offseason,” Kahlig said. “Having it actually show in a game is just awesome. It helps when you have two all-American caliber players in Taren and Tyce. Not only are they great shooters but great playmakers.”
Twelve other UF players knocked down a 3 last season. The next two highest made on the team were Tyler Stern-Tucker (18) and Trey Smith (18).
With Kahlig, Kimbrough and Sullivan as the big shot takers, it’s been a team effort to get them their good looks.
This year they’ll be surrounded by one of the most efficient point guards in the league in Austin Gardner and equally efficient big man Alex White (6-foot-7) in his own respect in the paint.
“With us having us shooters it’s not only us three,” Kimbrough said. “A lot of people can shoot on this team. Austin (Gardner), his ability to get to the paint, … Alex’s ability to finish inside, it just opens up shots.
“A team has to pick and choose and give up a 3 or give up a pullup or a layup.”
Kahlig, Kimbrough and Sullivan will attempt their share of 3s again this season.
Often they’ll do it in a variety of ways as each reflects their own style.
Each has their own preferred shot.
“I really like having the ball and a hesitation 3,” Kimbrough said “When you’ve got to catch it out and bring it and I just like under-pressure 3s.”
“I’d say in catch-and-shoot situations or pullup left, or pump fake left,” Kahlig said.
“I get a lot of looks out of pick and pops,” Sullivan said. “Just because if I do set a screen for Tyce and Pig (Kahlig), the (defenders) have trouble so it gives me an opportunity to get my feet set.”
Ultimately, either way is equally effective.
Tiffin found out the hard way exactly how deadly UF was when it started the night 10 of 11 from long range en route to making a school-record 19 in 32 attempts. Eleven of those came from the hot hand of Kimbrough.
Kimbrough said he’s always had a knack for shooting from a young age and worked on his ability in a unique way growing up in Lima.
“When I was really young there was a tornado one time. Our driveway was really slanted so the rim fell over and the backboard broke,” Kimbrough said. “So whenever I would shoot it, if I would miss, it would just roll all the way down in the street and I hated just running to go get the ball.
From that point forward Kimbrough told himself he’d never miss anymore. To that he credits his keen shooting ability.
Kahlig can thank his older brother Greg — a 1,000 point scorer at UF who graduated the year before before Elijah’s freshman year at UF.
“My dad would focus on my brother more with shooting,” Elijah said. “I’d complain to mom, ‘why isn’t dad shooting with me?’ Once Greg went to college my dad was all over me, shooting all the time.”
Sullivan said he was known more as a distributor throughout high school at Lima Bath until working on his craft with Greg Williamson, co-owner of Tier 1 Sports Academy in Lima.
Despite all of the 3-point success from last year’s season that helped fuel a Sweet 16 run, Ernst said he wouldn’t be surprised if they take less and make less this season.
“We have to continue to share the ball knowing you have that many good shooters,” Ernst said.
“What you don’t want to get into is guys trying to make tough shots. You still want to try to get the best shot for the team.”
Don’t sleep on White in the post either.
After never shooting from beyond the arc in high school or his first two collegiate years, he swished a trifecta during UF’s 89-86 exhibition win over Division I Toledo.
“Now I have a lot more confidence in my shot,” White said. “I can credit that a lot to (assistant) coach (Dan) Shardo.”