By ANDY WOLF
Alex White recently added the 3-point shot to his game.
Yet, the 6-foot-7 University of Findlay senior stepped into an open trey at crunch time Saturday like he’d done it all his life.
It not only silenced an 11-0 Malone run with 2:36 left in the game, but gave the No. 17-ranked Oilers enough of a cushion to put away an 81-75 Great Midwest Athletic Conference victory at Croy Gymnasium.
“The confidence comes from experience. I’m a senior, I’ve got nothing else to lose,” White said.
“Maybe (assistant) coach (Dan) Shardo might not like it as much, but if I’m open and it’s there, there’s no reason not to take it.
“The guys on my team expect me to take it if I’m open. The hesitation is just something that fades away as your career goes on.”
Findlay improved to 7-1 overall, 3-1 in the GMAC.
Malone never got a chance at a tie in the final 2 minutes.
White made 3 of 4 free throws following his clutch trey and fellow senior Trey Smith split a pair with 18.3 seconds remaining.
As the Pioneers dribbled up court in the waning seconds, UF’s Chazz George and Tommy Schmock forced a steal out of their double team.
The quick change in possession resulted in White getting fed for a breakaway one-handed jam for the game’s final points.
“That’s exactly what it felt like, an exclamation mark,” White said. “That’s credit to our guards being tough. They play 40 minutes of tough defense.
“It’s a lot to be proud of them.”
White’s play down the stretch put the finishing touches on a monster game of 28 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks. His point and block totals were both career highs.
“Helping over was a big key today,” White said. “I knew my guy might not have been a shooter so it allowed me to help out in the paint a lot more. Today, I did a lot better job of reading guys and what shots they were going to take.”
White didn’t attempt a 3-pointer in 39 games during his first two seasons.
He picked up shooting 3-pointers before his junior year but was 13 of 52 in his career prior to stepping up Saturday.
The timing of the 3-ball ended a 3-minute scoreless stretch by the Oilers.
The Pioneers trailed the entire game and by as many as 16 points midway through the second half.
Malone caught fire from outside and came within 72-71 before White got his open look, late in the shot clock.
UF coach Charlie Ernst called it “the biggest shot of the game.”
Similar to Thursday’s 67-66 win over Walsh, the UF coach was happy to see his seniors step up down the stretch.
Smith’s two free throws with 3.6 seconds left lifted the Oilers by the Cavaliers just two days prior.
“They both stepped up on nights where they made a few (free throws), but they also missed a few,” Ernst said. “They showed a lot of confidence and courage to take a tough shot.
“It really capped what was a tremendous day for Alex.”
As White stepped up for UF, Malone’s Bryce Butler went off for a career-high 26 points.
He did so in place of GMAC scoring leader Nate Sheppard’s worst game of the season at five points.
Sheppard, a 6-6 forward averaging 21.9 ppg, scored Malone’s first four points but finished 2 of 17 from the field, 0 of 7 from 3-point range.
Ernst noted that throwing different defenders in Smith, George and Katwan Singleton at Sheppard helped to keep him off balance with fresh bodies.
“He had a tough night,” Ernst said. “But Butler more than made up for the difference.”
George and Singleton each chipped in six points off the bench in an efficient manner. George buried 2 of 3 attempts from beyond the arc.
Singleton made all three field goal attempts, including a two-handed dunk off a Schmock assist in the first half.
“I thought tonight was Katwan’s best game of the year,” Ernst said. “He’s maybe picking up some momentum as a player and that’s what we need from him because he’s a good defender, a smart player.”
UF’s Aaron Overhiser added 17 points and 10 rebounds for his second straight double-double.
Smith tallied 11 points and five rebounds. Anthony Masterlasco (Liberty-Benton) had eight points.
Malone’s Jaret Majestic sank 5 of 9 3-point attempts en route to 17 points off the bench.
The Pioneers started 3 of 16 from outside in the first half but ended up 10 of 28.
“We just couldn’t deliver the knockout punch,” Ernst said. “Even when they were down 14, give them credit. They didn’t quit. They didn’t panic. They continued to run their offense.”
MALONE (5-5, 1-3 GMAC)
Ernst 2-6 0-0 4, Evans 3-6 0-0 8, Haynie 3-9 0-0 6, Butler 10-17 3-4 26, Sheppard 2-17 1-2 5, Majestic 5-9 2-2 17, Goldrick 0-1 0-0 0, Mouliom 4-6 1-2 9. TOTALS: 29-71 7-10 75.
FINDLAY (8-1, 3-1 GMAC)
Masterlasco 3-4 1-2 8, Overhiser 5-12 4-4 17, White 10-17 7-11 28, Smith 4-9 1-2 11, Schmock 1-10 1-2 3, George 2-4 0-0 6, Singleton 3-3 0-0 6, Linder 1-6 0-0 2, Stover 0-0 0-1 0. TOTALS: 29-65 14-22 81.
HALFTIME: Findlay, 42-31.
3-Point GOALS: Malone 10-28 (Ernst 0-1, Evans 2-5, Haynie 0-1, Butler 3-4, Sheppard 0-7, Majestic 5-9, Goldrick 0-1); Findlay 9-23 (Masterlasco 1-1, Overhiser 3-6, White 1-1, Smith 2-6, Schmock 0-3, George 2-3, Linder 0-3).
rebounds: Malone 42 (Ernst 12); Findlay 42 (White 13). ASSISTS: Malone 16 (Haynie 6); Findlay 20 (Schmock 5). STEALS: Malone 2 (Evans & Butler); Findlay 4. BLOCKS: Malone 6 (Ernst 4); Findlay 9 (White 6).
TURNOVERS: Malone 7, Findlay 5. TOTAL FOULS: Malone 17, Findlay 12. FOULED OUT: None.