MATTHIAS LEGUIRE / for The Courier
THE UNIVERSITY OF FINDLAY’S Chazz George (5) throws down a slam dunk between Walsh’s Conner Wess (left) and Branden Wilkins (right) during Thursday’s men’s basketball game at Croy Gymnasium.


Staff Writer

Straight focus.

Trey Smith honed in to sink the tying and game-winning free throws with 3.6 seconds remaining. The clutch makes by the senior guard capped the University of Findlay men’s basketball team’s thrilling 67-66 victory over Walsh University on Thursday at Croy Gymnasium,

“These are always grind-it-out games; we knew that going in,” Smith said. “They’re a very good team, played extremely well, came in and made early shots.

“They gave us fits all the way through the game. Credit to Walsh.”

Smith finished with 14 points.

NCAA Division II No. 17 Findlay improved to 7-1, 2-1 in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference game.

There were 15 lead changes in Thursday’s back-and-forth affair with Walsh (6-4, 2-1).

The Oilers held for a make-or-break possession until the game’s final seconds.

Coming off a baseline inbounds pass with 6.2 seconds left, Smith fired up a jumper from the right side but got fouled by Walsh’s Darryl Straughter.

“We got the look we wanted,” Smith said. “Wish I would’ve knocked it down, but we got fouled.”

Smith put aside his early-season struggles at the line, where he was 19 of 28 coming in.

Walsh took a timeout after his first make.

“I go to the line, try to be calm, do my same routine and shoot it like it’s any other shot,” Smith said.

Smith found nothing but net again.

After the Cavaliers burned their final timeout, Conner Wess’ full-length inbounds pass ended up in the hands of UF junior Katwan Singleton, who was quickly fouled.

He missed the front end of the one-and-one, but Walsh’s Sterling Christy could only chuck an airball from three-quarters court that fell well short as time expired.

UF coach Charlie Ernst cited Singleton’s overall defensive effort as “playing with energy and emotion.”

The Oilers needed it all down the stretch in their lowest-scoring game of the season.

“I’m proud of our guys because we won a game where we didn’t shoot the ball well,” Ernst said. “Good teams do that. That’s a step in the right direction.”

Prior to Smith’s free throws, Singleton locked down Darryl Straughter on the baseline, forcing an errant entry pass around Smith’s help defense.

UF sophomore and Liberty-Benton graduate Anthony Masterlasco dove and swatted it away on the left block, and the ball rolled out of bounds for a shot-clock violation with 20.5 seconds left.

“This was our best defensive game of the year,” Ernst said. “They didn’t have many no-brainers: shots where you feel like ‘Sheesh. What are we doing here?’

“They made some high-degree-of-difficulty shots and that’s about all we gave them.”:

UF had its clutch makes down the stretch, too.

Singleton locked down Walsh’s red-hot freshman J.T. Shumate for a missed, contested jumper.

Yet, Wess got the putback for a 63-60 Walsh advantage.

On the other end, Smith stepped into an open 3-pointer and buried it to tie it at the 2-minute mark.

“As soon as I caught it, I knew it was going up,” Smith said, noting he was 1 of 2 from that spot earlier.

Ernst had his early-season concerns on how his team would manage everything in late-game situations without a clear go-to guy.

“Probably, they’re going to be our upperclassmen but they had yet to really prove they could be those guys,” Ernst said. “Tonight was step No. 1 that we can win with those guys.”

UF’s other senior, Alex White, sank a pair of free throws with 50.6 seconds left to pull with 66-65.

He notched his fifth double-double this season with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

Aaron Overhiser also had 12 rebounds and a game-high 23 points.

Overhiser was largely matched on the equally 6-foot-7 Shumate, who scored a game-high 26 points.

Shumate accounted for 17 of Walsh’s first 22 points in the second half. He went 11 of 22 from the field and 4 of 10 from downtown.

“I was very impressed,” Ernst said. “That was a heck of a performance. Some of the shots he made were high-degree-of-difficulty shots.

“I thought it was a good changeup for us when we put Katwan on him and that was a huge stop we got on that last possession, where we forced the shot-clock violation.”

Christy added 13 points and Straughter had 12 points.

Walsh (6-4)

Shumate 11-22 0-0–26, Christy 5-11 3-6–13, Straughter 4-11 2-2–12, Canter 2-4 0-1–5, Wess 2-2 0-0–5, Bogan 1-4, 0-0–3, Wilkins 1-2 0-0–2, Mokros 0-2 0-0–0, Parker 0-0 0-0–0. TOTALS: 26-58 5-9 — 66.

Findlay (7-1)

Overhiser 7-16 5-7–23, Smith 5-10 2-2–14, White 5-15 2-2–12, Schmock 2-6 0-0–5, George 2-6 1-2–5, Linder 2-4 0-0–4, Masterlasco 2-6 0-0–4, Singleton 0-1 0-1–0, Stover 0-3 0-0–0. TOTALS: 25-67 10-14 — 67.

3-Point GOALS: Walsh 9-23 (Shumate 4-10, Straughter 2-4, Canter 1-3, Bogan 1-4, Wess 1-1, Mokros 0-1); Findlay 7-20 (Overhiser 4-4, Smith 2-5, Schmock 1-3, Masterlasco 0-2, White 0-1, George 0-3, Singleton 0-1, Linder 0-1).

rebounds: Walsh 36 (Christy & Canter 10); Findlay 43 (Overhiser & White 12).

ASSISTS: Walsh 11 (Christy & Straughter 3); Findlay 16 (Schmock 7).

STEALS: Walsh 1; FIndlay 5 (Schmock 3).

BLOCKS: Walsh 5 (Chrsity 2); Findlay 6 (White 3).

TURNOVERS: Walsh 11, Findlay 8.

TOTAL FOULS: Walsh 16, Findlay 9.

FOULED OUT: Straughter (Walsh).

HALFTIME: Findlay, 29-27.