By ANDY WOLF
When the game was on the line, it mostly wasn’t pretty.
Other times it was almost ugly.
Yet the University of Findlay men’s basketball team found a way to outlast Northern Michigan 73-71 Saturday at Croy Gymnasium.
“This will look a whole lot better tomorrow,” UF coach Charlie Ernst said. “I don’t want to take anything away from Northern Michigan. They had a lot of fight in them. They played like a desperate team, like I thought they would.
“Obviously we have a lot of things we can get better at but most importantly we won the game.”
The Oilers (4-4, 2-2 GLIAC) converted only 5 of 10 attempts at the foul line in the final 2:24 but it was enough to hold onto the lead and emerge victorious.
True freshman Alex White stepped up off the bench to co-lead the Oilers with a career-high 14 points on 5 of 5 shooting while adding six rebounds, three offensive, and two blocks.
The 6-foot-7, 230-pound forward scored nine points in the second half, including five straight to put the Oilers up 67-65 with 2:12 remaining.
“It goes all back to practice; we had a great week of practice,” White said. “Our practices were a lot more intense than they have been. Today’s match was a tough one but we got the W.”
White’s effort on the boards late especially helped the Oilers retake control after spoiling a 13-point lead midway through the second half.
The Wildcats (2-5, 1-3) had been dominating the glass all game long, using a second-chance bucket to tie the game at 59-all with 6:27 remaining.
White’s next defensive rebound with 2:25 remaining snapped a stretch of six lead changes in six possessions.
UF never trailed from there.
“Second half (NMU) was really going after it; that was making it a lot tougher,” White said as the Oilers were outrebounded 20-12 in the half, 42-27 overall. “But you know what, coach was yelling at us, it was deserved. After that we were able to get in front of them, box them out, cause some over the backs.”
The Wildcats also had nine offensive rebounds in each half, holding a 21-9 edge there and a 22-10 advantage in second-chance points.
Ernst attributed that deficit to a defensive dilemma in his “zone defense being the best to contain (NMU’s) athleticism.”
“But the problem is we’re an even worse rebounding team in that (lineup),” Ernst said. “We were kind of in a rock and a hard place. Obviously rebounding is not our forte but that’s where Alex comes in handy. He’s a very good rebounder. We just need more than that.”
Martyce Kimbrough added 14 points and five assists for the Oilers. His biggest two points came on a pair of free throws with 8.8 seconds left to extend UF’s lead to 73-69.
Dylan Kaufman added 11 points, hitting three 3-pointers in the first half to help the Oilers get out to a 43-29 lead.
He did miss a free throw with 0.3 seconds remaining, but the Wildcats couldn’t beat the buzzer on a three-quarter court heave that fell way short of going in.
Elijah Kahlig and Tyler Stern-Tucker each chipped in eight points off the bench. Stern-Tucker also had eight rebounds.
Northern Michigan’s Jordan Perez had a game-high 28 points with seven rebounds. Alex Mustert contributed 15 points, 11 in the second half, and seven rebounds.
The Oilers return to action 3 p.m. Saturday against Marygrove for a nonconference affair in Croy Gymnasium.
The Mustangs, an NAIA school, are 1-12 overall and have lost eight straight.
northern michigan (2-5, 1-3 GLIAC)
Perez 11-2—28, Mustert 6-3—15, Echols 2-2—7, Branstrom 3-0—6, Hall 2-0—5, Nash 2-0—4, Johnson 1-1—4, Williams 1-0—2. TOTALS: 28-63 8-14—71.
findlay (4-4, 2-2 GLIAC)
White 5-4—14, Kimbrough 4-4—14, Kaufman 4-0—11, Kahlig 2-2—8, Stern-Tucker 3-2—8, Staley 2-2—6, Sullivan 2-0—5, Gardner 1-1—4, Ruthsatz 1-1—3. TOTALS: 24-49 16-25—73.
3-Point GOALS: Northern Michigan 7-18 (Perez 4, Echols & Hall); Findlay 9-15 (Kaufman 3, Kahlig & Kimbrough 2, Gardner & Sullivan).
rebounds: Northern Michigan 42 (Mustert 9); Findlay 27 (Stern-Tucker 8).
ASSISTS: Northern Michigan 7 (Nash 3); Findlay 13 (Kimbrough 5).
STEALS: Northern Michigan 4; Findlay 2.
BLOCKS: Northern Michigan 2; Findlay 3 (White 2).
TURNOVERS: Northern Michigan 7; Findlay 10.
TOTAL FOULS: Northern Michigan 24; Findlay 15.
FOULED OUT: Nash (Northern Michigan).
HALFTIME: Findlay, 43-29.