By ANDY WOLF
Down goes another one.
Fairmont State became the latest top-notch basketball program to fall at the hands of the University of Findlay on Wednesday night.
Last year’s NCAA Division II runner-up battled through a game that featured nine ties and nine lead changes with the Oilers, who couldn’t breathe easy until the final seconds ran out on an 84-82 nonconference victory at Croy Gymnasium.
“That was a heck of a college basketball game,” UF coach Charlie Ernst said. “You don’t normally get that quality of basketball this early in the season.
“I tip my hat to Fairmont State. They’re winners. They’re used to winning. That’s a very good team.”
Findlay is now 5-1 in home openers under Ernst.
It had been 11 days since the Oilers (3-0) recorded neutral-court victories over preseason top-10 opponents in No. 6 Indiana (Pa.) and No. 5 St. Thomas Aquinas on back-to-back nights.
They came back battle-tested and ready to do it again against a Fairmont State (2-1) team that just missed out on cracking the Top 25 in the preseason poll.
“It’s helped our backup guys get ready for big games,” senior forward Taren Sullivan said of the first three games. “They’ve been there when the starters weren’t playing as well or as aggressive. I think this helps us as a whole as a team and gets us prepared for the big season.”
Sullivan knocked down with 27 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.
He not only drove for the go-ahead bucket with less than 20 seconds to go, but grabbed the game-sealing rebound in the paint with 1.4 seconds left.
Fairmont State’s Jason Jolly, a 5-foot-7 guard, drove the lane but was met a wall in UF’s 6-7 post player Alex White.
FSU’s Vonte Montgomery did manage to tip the ball toward the rim in the crowded paint.
Sullivan corralled the loose ball under the hoop and got fouled. He made the first and intentionally missed the second free throw to run off the remaining 1.4 seconds.
“We were all yelling different things but good talk,” Sullivan said. “It got Alex to get his hand in there on a pass. Soon as he did that, I had confidence that they were going to toss something up quick and not have a lot of time on the clock.
“When the ball went up, I just knew I had to get it.”
One possession prior, UF faced its first deficit of the second half at 82-81 with less than 40 seconds left.
Fairmont State completed the comeback with six straight points — the last four by Andrew Emerick in the paint.
But the lead didn’t last long as Sullivan came through with another clutch bucket.
“The whole game, coaches and teammates have been telling me that they weren’t able to stay in front of me,” Sullivan said. “I just had to be aggressive and go around them, not settle for a jumper and go to the hoop.”
The 6-foot-6 Sullivan was a difficult matchup inside for the Fighting Falcons all game long. He made 13 of 21 attempts from the field with numerous post moves to shake defenders free.
“His low-post game just continues to get better and better,” Ernst said.
As big of a shot-maker as Sullivan was for Findlay, Jolly was that guy for Fairmont State.
He canned 6 of 11 shots from downtown, 8 of 14 overall, in totaling 24 points.
“Jason Jolly is an unbelievable player. He almost single-handedly put them on his back,” Ernst said.
The rest of the Fighting Falcons shot lights out from beyond the arc as well, going 8 of 15 in the first half and 14 of 29 in all. Six players other than Jolly made a 3-pointer.
Only Emerick (10 points) finished in double figures.
For UF, Elijah Kahlig chipped in 14 points and five rebounds while Martyce Kimbrough and Aaron Overhiser each had 11 points. Trey Smith had four steals off the bench.
fairmont state (2-1)
Jolly 8-14 2-2 24, Emrick 5-7 0-0 10, Montgomery 3-10 2-2 9, Melko 4-6 0-0 9, Hutcherson 3-5 0-0 9, Stockman 3-4 0-0 7, VonHandorf 2-3 0-0 5, Cantrell 2-5 0-0 4, Davis 1-5 0-0 3, Franklin 1-1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 32-60 4-4 — 82.
Sullivan 13-21 1-3 27, Kahlig 5-8 2-2 14, Kimbrough 5-15 0-0 11, Overhiser 5-6 0-0 11, Schmock 3-8 2-4 8, White 2-5 2-2 7, Gardner 1-3 0-0 2, Smith 1-5 0-0 2, Ashley 1-2 0-0 2, Masterlasco 0-1 0-0 0. TOTALS: 36-74 7-11 — 84.
3-Point GOALS: Fairmont State 14-29 (Jolly 6-11, Hutcherson 3-4, VonHandorf 1-1, Melko 1-2, Stockman 1-2, Montgomery 1-6, Davis 1-2, Cantrell 0-1, Emrick 0-0, Franklin 0-0); Findlay 5-17 (Kahlig 2-4, White 1-1, Overhiser 1-1, Kimbrough 1-6, Sullivan 0-1, Gardner 0-0, Smith 0-1, Schmock 0-1, Masterlasco 0-1, Ashley 0-1).
rebounds: Fairmont State 39 (Melko 8); Findlay 30 (Sullivan 11).
ASSISTS: Fairmont State 14 (Jolly 6); Findlay 12 (Sullivan 6).
STEALS: Fairmont State 2 (Stockman & Davis 1); Findlay 9 (Smith 4).
BLOCKS: Fairmont State 3; Findlay 2 (Sullivan & Ashley 1).
TURNOVERS: Fairmont State 16; Findlay 6.
TOTAL FOULS: Fairmont State 15; Findlay 10.
FOULED OUT: none.
HALFTIME: Findlay, 49-44.