By ANDY WOLF
Charlie Ernst is expecting a war.
It could equally be a chess match, too.
The tense rivalry between No. 18 University of Findlay and Ashland University’s men’s basketball teams will be rehashed when they meet at 5 p.m. today in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament semfinals in Big Rapids, Mich.
Host Ferris State (25-4), the tournament’s top-seeded team will take on Michigan Tech (16-13) at 3 p.m. today in the first semifinal.
Findlay hasn’t been to a GLIAC tournament final since winning three straight titles from 2012-14.
The Oilers have twice as many crowns (8) as the Eagles have tournament wins (4).
During the regular season, both teams won on their home court by nearly identical scores.
Ashland throttled Findlay 86-65 on Jan. 28, and the Oilers returned the favor 85-65 on Feb. 18 at Croy Gymnasium.
Those two games reflected a cat-and-mouse style of basketball with Ashland’s focus on guarding the 3-point line.
“Ashland has a really good team,” said Ernst, in his fifth year as UF head coach. “I thought we defended them extremely well the last time and it’s going to take the same effort again.
“I’m sure they’re going to spend the next couple days figuring out how they’re going to defend our shooters because we shot it awfully well the last time we played them.”
When they’re on, few teams shoot 3-pointers as well as Findlay.
The Oilers are one of nine Division II teams ranked in the top 25 in both 3-pointers made (284, tied 19th) and shooting percentage (40.3, 25th)
But the ball never got rolling in Ashland’s Kates Gymnasium as the Oilers shot 8 of 23 from downtown.
In the comfort of its own gym, however, UF made 7 of 11 from beyond the arc in the second half to pull away from the Eagles.
“If they defend us hard on the 3-point line then we’ve got to find ways to maybe counterbalance that by getting to the free throw line,” Ernst said.
Taren Sullivan, Martyce Kimbrough and Elijah Kahlig combined have taken 538 of UF’s 705 3-point attempts this season.
Findlay’s next two outside splashes will tie and break the single-season school record of 285 made during the 1995-96 season.
Kimbrough has made a GLIAC-best 108 3-pointers. Sullivan is third in shooting percentage (45.5).
Kahlig (72 for 163) has been effective both in quantity and quality this season.
“They do a good job forcing us off the line so you’ve got to throw it inside, play inside and maybe kick it out after that,” Kahlig said.
Ashland also fancies the 3-ball.
The Eagles (40.6) just edge the Oilers on 3-point percentage on the year, but average five fewer attempts per game.
Ashland’s defensive effort and long-distance attack start with senior Boo Osborne (12.3 ppg). The 6-foot-3 guard is a two-time GLIAC all-defensive selection while leading the Eagles with 58 triples (43.6 percent).
Osborne found that hot touch at home against UF (5 for 6) but went cold in Croy Gymnasium (0 of 3).
Teammate and fellow guard Adrian Cook (14.1 ppg) joined Osborne on the All-GLIAC second team.
Ashland bench player Torrin Wetzel, a 6-foot-7 forward, leads the league in 3-point shooting at 46.4 percent (52-112).
“I would say they’ve had as consistent production from their bench as any team in the league,” Ernst said. “You spend so much time reading the front page of the scouting report, sometimes the guys stuck on the back page get lost.
“Their bench can easily outscore you 20-2 and that’s tough to overcome.”