BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – On a rare occasion the ONU men’s basketball team gets the opportunity to play the No. 2-ranked NAIA Division II team during the regular season at home in conference play. On Saturday, December 1, the Tigers hosted the undefeated Cardinal Stritch University (Wis.) Wolves to McHie Arena looking to upset the conference foe and win their third straight game. After 20 minutes of lack-luster play, Olivet turned it up a notch and found themselves in the game late, but failed to make the plays needed to win. The Tigers fell to the Wolves 68-65.
The Tigers (5-5, 3-4) could use a great start against the top-five team in order to create early momentum, and that’s what they did. By the 14:04 mark the Tigers led by five. They kept an early four-point lead at the 11:59 mark (15-11), but failed to hold-on as the Wolves (10-0, 7-0) 20-4 run to bust open a 12-point lead by the 5:24 mark. ONU tried to keep it close and closed to nine, but went down 13-points at the half only scoring nine points in the final 12 minutes of the first half.
In the first half, Olivet shot 9-for-23 from the field (39.1 percent), 4-for-11 from the three-point line (36.4 percent) and 2-for-4 from the free-throw line (50 percent). They were outrebounded by the Wolves 17-14 and committed eight turnovers. Cardinal Stritch shot 48.4 percent from the field, 23.1percent from the three-point line and 66.7 percent from the free-throw line. The Wolves committed four first-half turnovers and had five offensive rebounds.
The Wolves controlled the second half just as much as the first, extending their lead to 18 by the 12:25 mark after a Jeremy D’Amico three in the corner. ONU tried to answer offensively but on the defensive end failed to do so. However, by the 7:49 mark the Tigers started to make a run spawned by an Aaron Larson (Tolono, Ill.) three. His bucket led to an Olivet 16-5 run over seven and half minutes that eventually cut the Wolves lead to only three (63-60) with 1:44 remaining. In that span of time the Tigers hit three three-pointers. On the Wolves ensuing possession Derek Semenas scored a three-point play to stretch it to six points, but with four seconds remaining Ben Worner (Washington, Ill.) hit his third three of the day to make a three-point game again. The Tigers were able to stop the Wolves attack in the next possession but gave up an offensive rebound and Semenas hit two free-throws to seal the win.
Freshman Aaron Larson finished with 17 points on 6-for-8 shooting from the field, 1-for-1 shooting from three-point line, and 4-for-4 from free-throw line. He also had three rebounds and two assists in 35 minutes.
Sophomore Austin Davis (North Augusta, S.C.) finished with 12 points on 4-for-10 shooting from the field and 4-for-9 from three-point line. He also had six rebounds and seven assists in 40 minutes.
Ben Worner finished with 17 points on 7-for-12shooting from the field and 3-for-5 from the three-point line. He also had four rebounds and two assists in 33 minutes.
Senior Jake Boyce (Lockport, Ill.) finished with eight points and seven rebounds in 31 minutes.
Chad Mazur led the Wolves with 19 points on 7-for-14 shooting from the field and 5-for-9 from the three-point line. He added five rebounds and had one assist. Darren Moore finished with 17 points on 7-for-12 shooting and 12 rebounds in 26 minutes. Tony Smit added 11 points and two assists.
Overall, the Tigers shot 25-for-49 from the field (51 percent), 10-for-20 from the three-point line (50 percent) and 5-for-9 from the free-throw line (55.6 percent). They were outrebounded by Cardinal Stritch 37-28, committed 14 turnovers and totaled 21 assists, and only four offensive rebounds.
Cardinal Stritch, meanwhile, shot 25-for-63 from the field (39.7 percent), 6-for-25 from beyond the arc (24 percent) and 12-for-17 from the free-throw line (70.6 percent). The Wolves had 14 assists, 11 turnovers, 17 offensive rebounds and six steals.
Worner has made 141 career three-pointers, good for 14th all-time. He is two behind Cory Hainlen for 13th (143).
The Tigers will be back in conference action against Roosevelt University (Ill.) on the road Monday, December 3 at 7 p.m.