By BRIAN LESTER
On the schedule, it’s just another basketball game.
But there is always a little more intensity, a little more competitive fire and a little more excitement involved when the University of Findlay and Ashland University square off.
“Ashland is our rival, so there is extra motivation,” senior forward Greg Kahlig said. “It’s always fun playing them. We have to bring our “A” game because we know they will do the same.”
UF and AU renew their rivalry tonight in an 8 p.m. Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference game at Croy Gymnasium.
The Oilers (11-3, 7-3 GLIAC) hold a 59-27 advantage in the all-time series with the Eagles (6-8, 3-7), but the rivalry has been spiced up a bit lately as AU has won a game over UF in each of the last two seasons.
UF head coach Charlie Ernst expects nothing less than the Eagles’ best shot.
“They have dangerous offensive players, and their big guys present a challenge because they can step out and shoot,” Ernst, whose team is gunning for its fifth straight win. “We will have our hands full. Besides, this is Ashland-Findlay. Both teams will be compete hard. I expect it to be a hard-fought game.”
Ashland, which has lost two consecutive games and is 0-5 on the road, is better than its record indicates.
Saturday’s loss to Malone proves it.
The Eagles shot a 60.8 percent from the field and still came up on the short end of a 95-81 decision. Five players scored in double figures for AU, which is averaging 74.2 points per game and allowing 74.2.
“They are only a couple of possessions, a couple of minutes in certain games, from being 6-4 (in the GLIAC),” Ernst said. “They are not a team that is a long way from where it wants to be.”
The fact that the Eagles are close speaks to the competitive nature of the conference. In the South Division, the Oilers are tied for first with Walsh. Three other teams have at least five wins.
“Our players realize that there is a lot of parity in our league,” Ernst said. “Our league is much better from top to bottom than what it has been the last couple of years.”
Senior forward Will Evans is the Eagles’ leading scorer. He averages 14.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. Evans has also tallied 17 steals.
Junior guard Brook Turson is clicking for 11.1 points per outing and is grabbing 5.6 rebounds per game. Turson is a deep threat as well as he has knocked down 20 3-pointers.
Redshirt junior guard DaWaun Thomas is averaging 10.3 ppg and freshman forward Wendell Davis is averaging 9.1 ppg.
Kahlig, who leads the Oilers in scoring at 21.6 ppg and ranks 16th all-time on the school scoring list (1,443 points), said playing well on defense is vital to success.
“We have to be good in our transition defense. They like to run the ball at you,” Kahlig said. “Their big men cans step out and shoot the three, and we have to make sure we communicate. If we do that, and run our offense, we’ll be fine.”
The Oilers have put a lot of emphasis on defense, including devoting extra time to it in practice, and have held their last three opponents to under 70 points. UF is giving up 70.9 ppg and opponents are shooting just 40 percent from the floor.
“Our guys are playing with a lot of confidence on the defensive end,” Ernst said. “The next step is to defend a team with multiple threats, which is what Ashland has. We have to play well, and we should. We play a lot of guys, so fatigue isn’t an issue. We have no excuse not to play hard on defense.”
This game against the Eagles kicks off a stretch where the Oilers will play seven games in 16 days. It’s a rugged stretch, but six of those games are at home.
“We have to win our home games to contend for a championship,” Kahlig said. “Our crowd is great and we’ll be ready to go. It all starts with defense. We’ve picked it up the last four games and need to keep it going.”
Oilers face defending champs
UF’s women’s basketball team will aim for its second consecutive win tonight when it squares off against defending NCAA Division II national champion Ashland in a 6 p.m. GLIAC game at Croy Gymnasium.
The Oilers edged Tiffin 69-66 on Saturday and head coach Jim Wiedie is hoping his team can feed off the momentum . The Oilers (7-7 overall, 4-6 GLIAC), are in second the South Division while the Eagles (8-6, 6-4) are tied for first with Malone.
“We had a good win (against Tiffin) and it puts us right back in the mix for a division title,” Wiedie said. “The win gives us confidence going into this week.”
AU suffered only one loss last year en route to the title. It was to the Oilers, who earned a 66-51 win at Croy Gymnasium last February. UF and AU met in the GLIAC tournament title game as well, with AU winning 68-49.
The Eagles are coming off a 70-53 loss to Malone. Taylor Woods leads AU in scoring at 17.7 points per game. The junior guard has made 31 3-pointers.
Freshman forward Suzy Wollhenhaupt is clicking for 16.9 points per outing and is grabbing 7.9 rebounds per game. Senior guard Alyssa Miller (13.2) and sophomore guard McKenzie Miller (11.4) are key contributors as well.
Sophomore forward Margaret Wuebker leads the Oilers, averaging 12.2 ppg, while former Riverdale standout Lacey Kessler is clicking for 10.5 points per outing. The junior forward has also grabbed 24 steals.
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