By ANDY WOLF
Two equally dominant blowout wins.
Two very different defensive starts.
The University of Findlay men’s basketball team cleaned house this week in convincing fashion.
First, the No. 15 Oilers routed Cedarville 84-56 on Tuesday before dismantling Ohio Valley 101-64 on Thursday.
While the final scores were indicative of the gap between the top and the bottom of the GMAC, UF (24-3, 18-1 GMAC) had room for improvement after its first game.
Conner TenHove quickly scored Cedarville’s first seven points and, after teammate Robert Okoro missed a layup, the Yellow Jackets converted their next three looks to pull within 18-14.
“We didn’t start the game defensively the way I would like, especially on your home floor,” Ernst said. “They score 14 points in the first five minutes of the game and then scored 18 in the last 15 minutes. I’m not entirely sure how that happens but that’s being a little nit-picky. But that’s where we’re at with this team.”
Sure, the Yellow Jackets never led at any point in the game.
Ernst is thinking big picture.
“You know that the better the opponents get, the better those things become,” Ernst said. “The thing we’re trying to do is get better, win games, do a great job with the scouting report because that’s what we want to do every day with the scouting report — put your best foot forward regardless of the circumstances.”
After the first five minutes passed, Ernst did feel his team played a strong defensive game.
They carried a 42-32 lead into halftime, but maybe were a little unsatisfied.
“You walk into the locker room, when you have a veteran team, they know when they play well,” Ernst said. “They know when they’re not playing well regardless of the score.
Ernst could tell it in their demeanor.
“They were a little bit disappointed with the way they played in the first half because we’ve seen so little zone this year that we just looked a little uncertain of ourselves.”
The Yellow Jackets played each of its three guards 14-plus minutes in the first half — each making a 3-pointer and combining for 13 points.
They only totaled eight more in the second half — six via two Colton Linkous 3-pointers.
“We ran them off a bit. A lot of those guys are catch-and-shoot look kind of guys,” senior point guard Austin Gardner said. “We made them put it on the floor, made them uncomfortable at times. They did a pretty good job handling our pressure. I don’t think they turned it over too much.
Give them credit. We just were tougher in the game I guess.”
The Oilers looked even sharper against the Fighting Scots.
Ohio Valley ran its offense much differently than in the first meeting.
Just on the first half, they took 16 3-pointers on Jan. 20, making three.
Instead, the Fighting Scots waited nine possessions and 5 minutes to attempt one on Thursday.
They ended the first half with eight attempts from downtown, making four.
Junior forward Alex White patrolled the paint for 14 minutes in the first half and said he was surprised with OVU’s approach.
“Tonight it seemed liked they were more aggressive on the rim,” White said. “It caught us off guard a little bit but at the same time were were prepared enough.”
Meanwhile, the Oilers fired up 16 times from long range, making six.
Ernst felt the approach was more of a settling one, rather than relying on it.
“They tempt you to take good shots when I thought at times we could’ve gotten great shots,” Ernst said. “They were dead tired. We could’ve gone around them and got opportunities that were at the rim, no-brainers, could’ve made a couple extra passes at times but there’s a temptation because you’re open.”
All in all, he still felt it was a good win.
It was Findlay’s largest in conference play and first by 30 points this season.
Because of it, Ernst cleared his bench and had his starters out by the 12-minute mark.
Collectively, the Oiler reserves made 22 of 33 shots from the field.
Findlay will be one of the deepest teams in region come tournament time.
While the bench is young, each is proven within themselves to hold their own on defense and create their own shots.
Tommy Schmock and Trey Smith don’t just wreak havoc as pesky and thieving guards anymore.
No GMAC duo has more steals then them: Schmock 44 and Smith 39.
Smith especially thrived as a shooter last season but has since turned into just as effective of a driver.
He’s not only averaging 9.8 points per game in his last five, but is shooting 56 percent (18 of 32), 7 of 14 from downtown.
Schmock closed out January on a tough 1-of- 11 shooting stretch.
He’s 17 of 30 in five games since.
“Trey is seeing great opportunites to get to the basket and both of htem can make threes which makes them awfully tough to guard,” Ernst said. “Just proud of thoes guys. I think they stayed within themselves. The tendency when you build a lead against an opponent like this is to develop bad habits and I don’t think we did that.
“We stuck to who we are for the most part in this game.”