By ANDY WOLF
BIG RAPIDS, Mich. — Ferris State’s men’s basketball team reeled off one final run to end the University of Findlay’s tournament run.
The Bulldogs used a 9-0 late spurt to put the game away 80-65 and capture the Midwest regional title Tuesday at Jim Wink Area in Big Rapids, Michigan. In that span, the Oilers came away empty on five straight possessions –four missed outside shots and a turnover — and never came within two scores again.
“First off, my hats off to Ferris State,” UF coach Charlie Ernst said. “They’re a very good team. We’ve known that. But after a loss like this with such an outstanding senior class of our own, it’s tough not to focus on our pain, our team.”
The Oilers, making their second straight Sweet 16 appearance, were eliminated at 28-5 overall, the most wins since UF’s 36-0 national championship season in 2008-09.
Ferris State secured its first regional title since 1988 and second in Division II. The No. 2-ranked team nationally and regional hosts fed off their home crowd all game long, especially in decisive moments.
“That’s where being the top seed pays off,” Ernst said. “You’ve got the energy of the big crowd. You don’t feel much fatigue when you have your home crowd behind you.”
Senior forward Taren Sullivan tallied 16 points, five rebounds and four assists for the Oilers.
Alex White added 12 points and five rebounds while Elijah Kahlig had 10 points, six rebounds and two steals.
Drew Cushingberry and DeShaun Thrower fronted the Bulldogs with 21 and 20 points, respectively, and combined to shoot 5 of 6 from the 3-point line.
Thrower’s spark off the bench included eight second-half points and seven in the 9-0 spurt,
“Their two guards put them on their shoulders when it counted most,” Ernst said.
Ferris State led for over 36 minutes in the game and never trailed until Findlay finally got over the hump midway through the second half.
Sullivan and White each scored in the paint on consecutive possessions to give the Oilers their first lead at 54-53 with 8:46 remaining.
UF went into halftime down 38-29 and even trailed by as many as 15 points midway through the first half.
“Going into the locker room down nine in this big game, there was nothing but positive attitudes in the locker room” Sullivan said. “That tells a lot about our group. We just kept talking about the things we saw open, things we could fix.”
But Findlay couldn’t stay on top.
Markese Mayfield quickly countered White’s bucket to put FSU back up 55-54.
Kahlig appeared to give Findlay an extra charge by drawing and completing a 3-point play at the 7:58 mark
Cushingberry tied it up just 13 seconds later on a pair of free throws. Two possessions later Sullivan gave UF its final lead at 59-57.
Everything seemed to bounce Ferris State’s way after that.
Trey Smith, Tommy Schmock and Kimbrough each couldn’t connect on open good looks from the arc, White missed an open baseline jumper and Aaron Overhiser shuffled his feet for a traveling call.
By the time UF scored again on Austin Gardner’s drive, the Bulldogs led 68-61 with less than four minutes left.
“We had a couple open 3s that didn’t go down,” Ernst said. “In some ways, because of the way they defend and keep Hankins at the rim, we got a couple step-in 3s, shots we’ve made all year. Maybe some of that was fatigue.”
The drought was a small snapshot of Findlay’s overall tough-luck shooting night.
The Oilers couldn’t overcome a 1-for-17 second half at the 3-point line and finished a season-low 15.4 percent (4 of 26) on the night.
Kimbrough (six points), UF’s leading scorer at 17.7 points per game, didn’t score in the second half.
“We knew coming in he’s going to get some shots up and he’s a real good player,” Thrower said. “You just have to give your best effort and hope he misses shots. Tonight he missed some shots he usually makes.”
Kimbrough (six points) and Sullivan, respectively, went 0 of 6 and 0 of 5 from 3-point range
The two Lima natives ended their careers 11th (1,650)and 12th (1,595) on UF’s all-time scoring list. Both were named to the Midwest region all-tournament team.
Kahlig and Gardner (six points) also played their final games in orange and black.
Sullivan 8-19 0-0–16, White 5-10 0-0–12, Gardner 3-7 0-0–6, Kimbrough 2-12 2-2–6, Kahlig 3-4 3-3–10, Smith 3-4 0-0–6, Schmock 2-7 0-0–4, Ashley 0-0 0-0–0, Overhiser 2-0 1-5–0. TOTALS: 28-72 5-5 — 65.
ferris state (35-1)
King 1-8 2-2–5, Mayfield 3-7 1-1–7, Hankins 6-13 0-0–2, Cushingberry 6-8 7-9–21, Firlik 1-4 4-6–6, Thrower 7-12, 3-3–20, Hughes 0-0 0-0–0, McFadden 2-7 0-0–4, Walker 0-2 0-0–0. TOTALS: 28-66 17-22 — 80.
3-Point GOALS: Findlay 4-26 (White 2-2, Kahligh 1-2, Overhiser 1-5, Sullivan 0-5, Gardner 0-1, Kimbrough 0-6, Smith 0-1, Schmock 0-4); Ferris State 6-23 (Thrower 3-4, Cushingberry 2-2, King 1-8, Mayfield 0-1, Firlik 0-2, McFadden 0-1).
rebounds: Findlay 35 (Kahlig 6); Ferris State 49 (Hankins 12).
ASSISTS: Findlay 18 (Sullivan 4); Ferris State 20 (King & Cushingberry 4).
STEALS: Findlay 6 (Kimbrough & Kahlig 2); Ferris State 4 (Firlik 2).
BLOCKS: Findlay 3 (White, Smith & Overhiser 1); Ferris State 4 (Hankins 3).
TURNOVERS: Findlay 8; Ferris State 11.
TOTAL FOULS: Findlay 19; Ferris State 10.
FOULED OUT: None.
HALFTIME: Ferris State, 38-29.
By ANDY WOLF