By BRIAN LESTER
Dylan Kaufman could not have asked for a better dunk opportunity than the one he was given midway through the second half Saturday afternoon.
With the ball loose on the floor, John Staley dove to the floor and wrestled the ball away from a Lake Erie College player. He was able to get it to Kaufman, who was open in the paint and leaped up to throw down a dunk.
The play energized the crowd of 1,082 on a day when the University of Findlay men’s basketball team was full of energy en route to a 74-49 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference win over the Storm.
Kaufman’s jam put the Oilers in front 60-40 and capped a scoring surge where the sophomore guard had also drilled a 3-pointer in the corner and scored on a layup. Kaufman finished with 15 points.
“It all starts with my teammates,” Kaufman said. “Greg (Kahlig) found me wide open in the corner for the three, and John made a heck of a hustle play. He dove on the ground, stole the ball and got me a wide open dunk.”
The dunk was the exclamation point on a hustle play that helped the Oilers hold their third consecutive opponent to less than 50 points.
UF (13-3, 9-3 GLIAC) has learned to pride itself on making the all-out effort plays that have fueled a six-game win streak. The Oilers are a half-game up on Walsh in the South Division.
“You saw us play a month ago. We weren’t making those plays a month ago,” UF head coach Charlie Ernst said. “We are now, and it’s exciting. It’s exciting to see guys take so much pride on the defensive end.”
That pride was apparent from the opening tip against the Storm (8-10, 5-7), who have been competitive despite not having a winning record.
Alphonso Baity scored four quick points off back-to-back layups and helped set the tone on defense as he hounded LEC star Riley Thomas, who came in averaging 20.7 points per game.
Thomas scored only five and the Storm shot 29.8 percent (17 of 57) from the field.
Baity, who scored 11 points, said his success was linked to preparation.
“I watched a lot of film on my own before the game,” Baity said. “I picked up on what he does and what plays they run for him. He’s a good player, but I played him tight and made sure he didn’t play his best.”
Ernst said the effort was impressive considering how much energy Baity had to spend to defend Thomas.
“Alphonso had to chase him around because he runs off a lot of screens,” Ernst said. “It’s not easy to guard a guy like that and then turn around and play the point for us and operate against their changing defenses. It’s a good thing he is in shape.”
The Oilers were stingy on defense early on to set the tone. They hounded the Storm, rarely giving it good looks from the outside and playing solid in the paint to keep LEC from attacking the basket for layups. Garrick Sims led Lake Erie with 17 points.
As if that didn’t make the day tough enough for the Storm, the Oilers were also clicking offensively, especially Kahlig, who drained four treys in the opening half and helped stake UF to a 45-25 halftime lead.
Kahlig scored 21 points while grabbing four rebounds and handing out five assists. The senior preseason All-American forward has scored in double figures in 10 consecutive games and is 14th all-time in points with 1,498 points.
His trey up top from well beyond the arc pushed UF in front 40-23 lead and Jake Heagen capped the dominant half with a 3-pointer as time expired.
Heagen scored 11 points and pulled down 12 rebounds for his third double-double of the season.
Teamwork played a vital role in the success of the Oilers on offense. UF shot 46.7 percent (28-of-60) and tallied 15 assists as it was willing to work for the best shot possible.
“We’ve been doing a lot of one-more drills in practice where a shot may be good, but you give it up for a better shot,” Kaufman said. “That is just being unselfish and wanting to win.”
The Storm got as close as 14 in the second half, but the Oilers continued to play with intensity. Quaran Jones came through with a huge hustle play as he leaped up for an offensive rebound and put it back in while drawing a foul. His free throw gave the Oilers a 65-40 advantage with seven minutes remaining.
The Oilers now turn their attention to Walsh (12-3, 8-3), which is breathing down the neck of the Oilers in the division. Findlay and Walsh play at 8 p.m. Thursday at Croy Gymnasium.
“We relish these opportunities and it won’t take a lot of thought to motivate the guys,” Ernst said. “We’re already talking about that game. It’s a big game, as are all GLIAC games. There is a lot of pride and a lot of respect between the two schools.”
LAKE ERIE (5-10, 5-7 GLIAC)
Morris 4-12 0-0 12, Sims 5-9 7-9 17, Parker 2-6 0-0 4, Bosley 1-3 0-0 2, Thomas 2-12 0-0 5, Alexander 1-2 0-0 2, Deitsch 0-2 0-1 0, Barth 0-1 0-0 0, Howard 2-6 1-2 6, Wells 0-3 0-0 0, Walczak 0-1 0-0 0, Walters 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 17-57 8-11–49.
FINDLAY (13-3, 9-3 GLIAC)
Heagen 3-9, 3-4 11, Kahlig 7-13 3-3 21, Frilling 2-2 0-0 4, Baity 5-10 0-0 11, Kaufman 6-13 1-2 15, Gardner 1-2 0-0 2, Samsel 1-3 0-0 3, Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Staley 1-2 0-0 2, Baldwin 0-0 0-0 0, Stern-Tucker 0-1 0-0 0, Jones 2-4 1-1 5, Kohls 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 28-60 8-10–74.
HALFTIME: Findlay, 45-25.
3-Point GOALS: Findlay 10-27 (Heagen 2-6, Kahlig 4-9, Baity 1-2, Kaufman 2-7, Samsel 1-3); Lake Erie (Morris 4-9, Parker 0-1, Bosley 0-1, Thomas 1-6, Alexander 1-1, Deitsch 0-1, Barth 0-1, Howard 1-4, Wells 0-1).
rebounds: Findlay 41 (Heagen 12); Lake Erie 35 (Morris & Sims 9).
ASSISTS: Findlay 15 (Kahlig 5, Samsel 3); Lake Erie 11 (Parker 4).
STEALS: Findlay 9 (Heagen 4, Kaufman 3); Lake Erie 8.
BLOCKS: Findlay 2, Lake Erie none.
TURNOVERS: Lake Erie 18, Findlay 15.
TOTAL FOULS: Lake Erie 15, Findlay 13.
FOULED OUT: None.
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