By ANDY WOLF
It’s no secret the University of Findlay men’s basketball team is one of the best at home at any level.
Since Charlie Ernst took over as head coach beginning with the 2011-12 season, the Oilers have posted a 59-7 record at Croy Gymnasium.
Prior to Ernst taking over, the Oilers rode a 71-game home winning streak spanning from 2007 to the second game of the 2011-12 season.
Despite an uncharacteristic 6-5 overall and 3-3 record in Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play, what hasn’t wavered is their success at home.
The Oilers have won all three games at Croy this season and are in for a steady helping of that home-court edge.
Six of their eight remaining games in January, all in the GLIAC, will be at home, starting with Saginaw Valley State at 7 p.m. tonight.
The Cardinals (9-2, 6-0 GLIAC) are one of two remaining teams still unbeaten in league play — Lake Superior State (11-1, 6-0) is the other.
“We’re a young team so to start off, we were trying to figure out our identity, our roles, but each game we’re getting better,” sophomore guard Martyce Kimbrough said.
“Everybody is starting to understand their role and what they’re supposed to do. We’re playing well as a team and getting to know each other better.”
Kimbrough, a 6-foot-1 transfer from the University of Indianapolis, is thriving in his first year of action for the Oilers as both an offensive playmaker and a defensive stopper.
He leads UF with 14.1 points per game, 27 total assists and is one of three Oilers averaging at least one steal per game.
Kimbrough has shown a knack for scoring in a multitude of ways too, leading UF with 28 3-pointers and 33 free throws in 36 attempts.
Most recently, Kimbrough recorded his best scoring game yet, hitting six 3-pointers to fuel the Oilers to an 82-66 win over Grand Valley State on Sunday.
The win helped UF bounce back after falling 72-69 to Ferris State the previous night as Kimbrough missed a 3-pointer in the final seconds.
“I was actually proud of the way our guys played. We played hard, fought hard entire game and had a few mental mistakes that hurt us,” Kimbrough said. “Overall we played well as a team and made strides in the right direction. Hopefully we keep moving forward.”
Ernst describes Kimbrough’s play as being a “combo-guard”, something he hasn’t had on his roster in a while.
“Where that helps him is he can score off the dribble or off the catch and shoot,” Ernst said. “When he and Austin (Gardner) are really geared up defensively, they can guard the best ball handlers on their team. That goes a long way in getting stops.”
The Oilers will need to be at their defensive best against the Cardinals.
SVSU ranks second in the GLIAC in both points per game (85.6) and field goal efficiency (48.3 percent).
“It’s not like they have a zillion plays,” Ernst said. “But they do a great job of executing the ones they have and still give their best players a chance to just play.”
SVSU returns all five starters from last year’s squad that defeated the Oilers twice, the last time 69-62 in the first round of the GLIAC tournament.
In both games, three starters scored at least 15 points. C.J. Turnage and Garrett Hall did it twice for the Cardinals.
Turnage (17.1 ppg), a do-it all 6-5 junior forward, is fourth in the GLIAC in shooting percentage (61.2), having been held below 50 percent in just two games this season.
Hall averages 10.7 ppg while guard Damon Bozeman is second on SVSU at 13.4 ppg.
“They’re going to challenge us physically on offense and we’ve got to be able to stand up to that,” Ernst said.
Findlay will close out the week against Hillsdale (8-2, 4-2) 3 p.m. Saturday at Croy.
The women’s team will also be in action against SVSU (7-4, 4-2) at 5 p.m. today and against Hillsdale (6-4, 3-3) at 1 p.m. Saturday. The Oilers (10-2, 5-1) saw their seven-game win streak come to a grinding halt in a 75-35 loss to Grand Valley State on Sunday.
Only Karli Bonar (eight points) and Margaret Wuebker (seven points) scored more than five points in the loss.
UF leading scorer Haley Horstman (12.0 ppg) was held to just two points on 1 of 8 from the field.
Like the men’s team, the women’s team has yet to lost at Croy this season, posting a 3-0 home record.