By BRIAN LESTER
There came a point Thursday night where Greg Kahlig was simply having fun.
No outcome hung in the balance, no pressure was on his shoulders. Kahlig could just shoot the ball at will, and with confidence.
And he did.
On three consecutive possessions in the final minutes of the University of Findlay men’s basketball team’s 85-48 drubbing of rival Ashland, Kahlig put the finishing touches on a remarkable performance, knocking down a trey each time, dazzling the Croy Gymnasium crowd as the Oilers rolled to their fifth straight win.
Those shots were the exclamation points on a 34-point effort that was fueled by a record-tying nine 3-pointers. His total tied the mark set by graduate assistant coach Dustin Pfeifer against Hillsdale eight years ago.
Kahlig called it a performance he will never forget. Ashland would probably like to forget it ever happened as it lost its third consecutive game and fell to 0-6 on the road.
UF is now tied for first overall in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference at 12-3 overall and 8-3 in the league.
“It feels amazing,” Kahlig said. “You don’t ever expect it. You don’t ever just go for it. It just happens.
“It feels good to have a record like that, and it’s something I’ll look back on and be proud of for the rest of my life.”
Pfeifer joked that he still holds the record because he hit his nine treys on only 12 attempts. Kahlig needed 13 on a night when he was 11-of-18 overall and dished out six assists as well.
“My teammates found me early and I kind of got going there,” Kahlig said. “I can’t complain.”
Getting going early might be an understatement in the latest chapter of this bitter rivalry.
The senior preseason All-American forward hit three outside shots in the first eight minutes of the game as the Oilers stormed out to a 24-6 lead over the Eagles (6-9, 3-8).
The dominance didn’t last.
With Kahlig and Alphonso Baity on the bench with two fouls apiece, the Oilers became careless and turned the ball over 11 times in the first half. The Eagles scored 18 points off the miscues and got as close as 29-26 with four minutes to go on a layup by Wendell Davis.
“We went stagnant on offense,” UF head coach Charlie Ernst said. “What happened was the other guys started watching Greg. They became spectators.
“So when Ashland started denying him the ball, we had no movement and became easier to guard. We went through a stretch where we didn’t play well offensively.”
Fortunately, Mark Frilling provided just enough of a spark to push the Oilers into halftime with a 37-30 lead.
Intense as always, Frilling attacked the basket and hit four free throws along with a jumper in the paint that helped the Oilers create a little bit of breathing room. Frilling finished with nine points and six rebounds.
“I had chances to make plays and I made them,” Frilling said. “We hit a lull and we needed to get going. I just played hard, the same way I always play.”
Ernst said his team was relieved to have a lead at the break, but he wanted to make sure the intensity level rose to another level in the second half.
The Oilers, who opened the second half on a 10-0 run, held the Eagles to 18 points in the final 20 minutes.
AU shot 30.8 percent (16-of-52) from the field and no one scored in double figures. Leading scorer Will Evans (14.3 points per game) was 0-for-8 and finished with one point.
“If you hold an opponent at the college level, at the Division II level, to less than 20 points in a half, your players are getting it done on the defensive end,” Ernst said.
For the Oilers, who have held back-to-back opponents to under 50, it was a huge step forward as they swarmed to the ball, contesting shots, deflecting passes and forcing turnovers. UF scored 26 points off 15 turnovers.
“We’re playing good defense right now, and it’s something we have to continue,” Kahlig said. “When we play that way, we’re tough to beat, home or on the road. We’ve worked hard at it.”
Quaran Jones was the only other player in double figures as he scored 10 points during a five-minute stretch in the second half. His drive to the hoop with 6:14 to go put UF in front 64-41.
The Oilers hit 14 3-pointers and shot a sizzling 58.3 percent (28-of-48) from the field.
Their attention now shifts to Lake Erie (8-9, 5-6), which comes to town Saturday for a 3 p.m. GLIAC game.
“They will come in with the mantra of nothing to lose,” Ernst said. “They are an improved team and our guys, while excited about this win, have turned the page. Our focus is on Lake Erie.”
ASHLAND (6-9, 3-8)
Evans 0-1–1, Honigford 1-0–2, Davis 3-2–8, Thomas 2-4–9, Turson 1-2–4, Gency 0-0–0, Krizancic 1-0–2, Pickens 1-0–2, Osborne 3-2–9, Cook 3-0–6, Speelman 0-0–0, Hundley 1-3–5. TOTALS: 16-52 14-24–48.
FINDLAY (12-3, 8-3)
Heagen 2-0–6, Kahlig 11-3–34, Frilling 2-5–9, Baity 0-0–0, Kaufman 3-0–7, Gardner 0-3–3, Samsel 2-0–6, Smith 1-1–3, Staley 0-0–0, Baldwin 1-0–2, Stern-Tucker 2-0–4, Jones 4-2–10, Kohls 0-1–1. TOTALS: 28-48 15-23–85.
3-POINT GOALS: Ashland 2-17 (Thomas, Osborne); Findlay 14-27 (Heagen 2, Kahlig 9, Kaufman, Samsel 2).
REBOUNDS: Ashland 32 (Evans 8); Findlay 36 (Frilling 6, Heagen 5, Jones 5).
ASSISTS: Ashland 6 (Evans 3); Findlay 17 (Kahlig 6, Baity 4).
STEALS: Ashland 9 (Turson 3); Findlay 7 (Kaufman 2, Gardner 2).
BLOCKS: Ashland 2; Findlay 7 (Kahlig 2, Kaufman 2).
TURNOVERS: Ashland 15, Findlay 13.
TOTAL FOULS: Ashland 23, Findlay 22.
FOULED OUT: none.
HALFTIME: Findlay, 37-30.