By ANDY WOLF
When Charlie Ernst was walking off the floor after Sunday’s NCAA Division II regional semifinal victory over Ferris State, he had a moment to reflect on how much he and his team had overcome.
The head coach of the 25th-ranked University of Findlay men’s basketball team pondered not just on the loss of two injured starters but a recent setback.
One week prior, the Oilers got rocked out of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament 100-69 by rival Ashland.
“It can shake your confidence a bit,” Ernst said of the loss. “It says a lot about this team and where we are, one week later and now preparing to play for the opportunity to go to South Dakota (Elite Eight).
“It’s just hard to believe and hard to put into words.”
Now, UF is the final GLIAC team still playing.
Findlay can be the last Midwest regional team with a Sweet 16 win against No. 2-ranked and top-seeded Bellarmine (30-3) today.
Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. at Knights Hall in Louisville, Ky.
The Oilers are 3-2 lifetime against the Knights but have lost both games in Louisville. The Knights have won all three of the regional finals they’ve hosted (2011, 2012, 2015).
Bellarmine ousted UF in the 2012 regional semifinals at Knights Hall before picking up another home win (63-54) two seasons ago in nonleague play.
The following season, the Oilers got their revenge, outlasting Bellarmine 70-69 at Croy Gymnasium.
“We know how they like to play,” Ernst said. “Our players understand what we’re up against — a tremendous home court — and it’s because of their fans.
“It’s going to be an unbelievable atmosphere (tonight), one that these guys will never forget.”
After beating Ferris State 68-63 in the first regional semifinal Sunday, the Oilers watched as Bellarmine rolled out to a 48-28 halftime edge on Quincy.
The team left shortly after assured of their next opponent.
“Now for us it’s a lot of mental rest the next couple days,” Ernst said after Sunday’s win. “Kind of winding down and winding back up and getting our guys excited.”
Bellarmine is coached by Scott Davenport, who has compiled a 285-92 record since taking over in 2005. Davenport has guided the Knights to eight straight national tournament appearances, including the 2010-11 season when the they capped a 33-2 season by winning the NCAA Division II national title.
Bellarmine averages 82 points per game to Findlay’s 83.
“They can get the tempo going the way they want,” Ernst said. “They run a great motion offense. We feel like we run great offense too.”
A pair of 6-foot-8 forwards pave the way for the most-efficient offense in the nation at 53.4 percent.
Sophomore Adam Eberhard leads at 17.1 ppg while senior and 1,000-point scorer Rusty Troutman pust in 15.1.
Senior Al Davis (11.1) also averages double figures.
Eberhard received second-team all-Midwest region honors as the Division II Conference Commissioners Association released its all-region teams Monday.
UF junior guard Martyce Kimbrough (19.5 ppg) landed on the first team. He’s made a UF record 112 3-pointers at a clip of 41.2 percent.
Teammate and fellow Lima native Taren Sullivan earned a second-team nod. He averages 18 points at 54.8 percent shooting, 7.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.5 steals.
Sullivan has been equally clutch in the postseason, averaging a double double of 23 points and 11 rebounds in back-to-back tournament wins.
Senior Tyler Stern-Tucker is averaging 15 points in the two games .
The 25 wins are the most since UF’s 36-0 national title run in 2008-09.
Findlay has reached the 20-win plateau 15 times since the turn of the century but only has four Sweet 16 appearance to its name.
“It’s really a testament to all the players and people before our current players because they set the table to make the program the way it is and get the quality of players we have,” Ernst said. “You have to win to get those kind of guys. “¦ We’ve had tremendous players in this program. It tells you how hard it is to get to this point.”
NOTE: There will be a reception for Oilers’ fans before today’s University of Findlay men’s basketball Sweet 16 game against Bellarmine. The reception, free of cost to anyone who would like to attend, will be held at the Cottonwood Suites Louisville Fair and Expo Center in the Triple Crown room at 4110 Dixie Highway in Louisville, Ky. If questions regarding the reception, contact the Wolfe Center for Alumni at (419) 434-4516. A limited number of tickets to the game will be made available. People can reserve a spot now by calling the athletics office at (419) 434-4663. Cost of the tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students.
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