University of Findlay guard Elijah Kahlig pulls up for a jumper over Illinois-Springfields Bahari Amaya late in the first half of Sundays season opener at Croy Gymnasium. UF won, 81-57. (Photo by Matthias Leguire.)
University of Findlay guard Elijah Kahlig pulls up for a jumper over Illinois-Springfields Bahari Amaya late in the first half of Sundays season opener at Croy Gymnasium. UF won, 81-57. (Photo by Matthias Leguire.)

By ANDY WOLF
STAFF WRITER

The season has begun and everything counts now.

University of Findlay senior Ricardo Smith did a lot of tallying in the first four minutes of play Sunday afternoon.

Smith scored nine straight points in a 2:18 span with his final two buckets starting a 17-2 run to blow open the game 25-7 in favor of Findlay.

The Oilers stayed in front by double figures the rest of the way and picked up a 81-57 nonconference victory over Illinois-Springfield on Sunday at Croy Gymnasium.

“On different nights it’s going to be a different guy performing,” said Smith, who finished with 13 points and five rebounds. “Tonight, it was my night. We’ve got a lot of different players who can score the ball. We’re a great team and we’re going to share the ball no matter what.”

Smith didn’t score in double figures at all last season and only had three games of more than four points.

He even nailed a 3-pointer, matching his season total of last year when he was 1 for 5 from behind the arc.

Smith earned his reputation as a defensive stopper, and he displayed that as well before his scoring outburst by blocking a shot on Illinois-Springfield’s second possession.

“I give (Ricardo) a lot of credit because he didn’t play a lot last year or have the kind of season he wanted to have, but he didn’t let that change his approach,” UF coach Charlie Ernst said. “He was a good spark early and is going to be an important guy. Any scoring we get is a bonus.”

Five other players scored during the 17-2 run that ended on a Katwan Singleton free throw at the 11:47 mark in the second half.

The Prairie Stars came within 11 points once in the first half and 13 points another time in the second half but were vastly overmatched by the experience and home-court edge of the Oilers.

Sullivan led all players with eight rebounds and 16 points, including two alley-oop dunks off feeds from Austin Gardner.

Kimbrough added 14 points with four 3-pointers, while Gardner collected eight points, five rebounds, nine assists and three steals.

Nine UF scored at least five points.

The rout could’ve been worse as the Oilers took 30 3-point shots, mostly wide open, but hit only nine.

They still shot 44.8 percent (30 for 67) on the night.

“We shot the ball really well in the preseason and really didn’t have a great shooting night,” Ernst said. “That’s the maturity and where we’ve come as a team.

“If that’s the only way you make a living, there’s going to be a lot of up and down in your game so to get 81 and not have a good shooting night from the 3-point line and the free-throw line (12 of 18) is a testament to that we can do more than just shoot threes.”

Ernst especially liked his team’s pace on offense and will try to get it to be more consistent.

A strong defensive effort by the Oilers consistently dictated the kinds of shots taken by the Prairie Stars.

Illinois-Springfield had graduated its top four scorers of a team that finished 11-18 last season but did top UF 82-80 in Las Vegas in the second game of the season.

Collectively, the Prairie Stars shot 37.9 percent (22 of 58), despite going 9 of 17 from the 3-point line.

“Their precision on offense and ability to execute isn’t really necessarily there because a lot of the new guys they have,” Ernst said. “They’re going to get better so in some ways maybe we caught them at a good time. We took them out of some things early.”

Paxton Harmon and Eddie Longmeyer each had 11 points for UIS while Zach Steinberg had 10 points and five rebounds.

ILLINOIS-SPRINGFIELD (0-1)
Amaya 2-7 0-0 6, Harmon 4-7 0-0 11, Steinberg 5-13 0-2 10, Longmeyer 5-13, 1-4 11, Gonce 0-2 0-0 0, Donnelly 1-4 0-0 3, Smith 0-1 0-0 0, Walker 2-5 2-2 8, Ngwe 0-0 0-0 0, Days 1-3 0-0 2, Van Sant 2-3 1-1 6. TOTALS: 22-58 4-9–57.

FINDLAY (1-0)
Sullivan 6-9 2-2 16, White 3-4 1-2 7, Gardner 3-7 2-2 8, Smith 6-12 0-0 13, Kimbrough 4-10 2-2 14, Ruthsatz 0-2 0-0 0, Singleton 2-3 3-4 7, George 0-2 0-0 0, Kahlig 2-7 0-0 6, Stern-Tucker 2-6 1-2 5, Overhiser 2-5 1-4 5. TOTALS: 30-67 12-18–81.

3-POINT GOALS: Illinois-Springfield 9-17 (Amaya 2-3, Harmon 3-5, Steinberg 0-1, Longmeyer 0-2, Donnelly 1-1, Smith 0-1, Walker 2-3, Van Sant 1-1); Findlay 9-30 (Sullivan 2-3, Gardner 0-2, Smith 1-2, Kimbrough 4-8, Ruthsatz 0-2, Singleton 0-1, George 0-2, Kahlig 2-5, Stern-Tucker 0-3, Overhiser 0-2).

REBOUNDS: Illinois-Springfield 29 (Steinberg 5); Findlay 48 (Sullivan 8).
ASSISTS: Illinois-Springfield 13 (Longmeyer & Donnelly 3); Findlay 19 (Gardner 9).
STEALS: Illinois-Springfield 0; Findlay 6 (Gardner 3).
BLOCKS: Illinois-Springfield 3; Findlay 4.
TURNOVERS: Illinois-Springfield 13; Findlay 9.
TOTAL FOULS: Illinois-Springfield 16; Findlay 11.
FOULED OUT: None.
HALFTIME: Findlay, 45-28.

Wolf: 419-427-8496,
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