By ANDY WOLF
University of Findlay men’s basketball coach Charlie Ernst is happy he doesn’t have to see Cedarville University’s zone defense anymore.
He’s equally happy his team survived, albeit in an ugly fashion at the buzzer, in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference tournament semifinals 80-77 on Friday night at Croy Gymnasium.
The Yellow Jackets’ Brandon Maughmer got a good 3-point look in the final seconds but clanked it off the rim with 0.7 remaining.
“(Cedarville) knew a lot of what we were going to run,” Ernst said. “We have put in more zone plays this season than we’ve ever had in my time at Findlay — and it’s mostly because of Cedarville.
“This is the third time we’ve played them. It’s not an easy zone to crack and when you combine it with the fact they have a lot of length on their team, it makes them a tough team to play.”
Top-seed Findlay, ranked No. 6 nationally, will meet Walsh (23-7) at 2 p.m. today for the GMAC crown.
Findlay didn’t quite crack Cedarville’s defense, often “shooting over it” without breaking it down as Ernst noted, but stayed hot from downtown for a season-high 16 3-pointers in 31 attempts.
Seniors Alex White and Trey Smith each buried six 3-pointers en route to combining for 57 points.
White, who is 15 of 18 from 3-point range in his last three games, went 6 of 8 from downtown on Friday and completed the double-double at 32 points and 11 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Smith went 6 of 10 from 3 in his 25-point effort with four assists.
“If we shoot like that, we’ll be tough to beat,” Smith said. “If we defend how we’re capable of, I think we’re going to be very tough to beat.”
Ernst felt his two seniors, both first-team and all-defensive GMAC selections, were “the difference makers.”
“Our two seniors were tremendous,” Ernst said. “What more can I say about them, just guys that have really bought into this program.”
Ernst noted White’s winning GMAC Player of the Year on Thursday made him the first UF player to do it while also being on the all-defensive team since Josh Bostic (2008-09).
The Oilers also advanced to their first conference title game since 2014 where they capped a 3-peat of Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships.
“I realize there’s a lot of guys who have turned in their equipment and hung up their shoes already,” Smith said. “Me not taking anything for granted as a senior, that’s what I’m most looking forward to, knowing that this group of guys will be one of few still left playing in the country.”
The Oilers took a 45-32 edge into halftime after going 11 of 22 from beyond the arc. They had only made that many treys in a game just seven times this season.
Cedarville clawed back the entire second half.
The Yellow Jackets cut it to four twice midway through yet trailed 77-65 with 6 minutes remaining. They had it back to down one possession at the one-minute mark.
Both teams traded three turnovers in the final minute — the last leading to a Cedarville transition opportunity for Maughmer at the right wing.
“At this point in the season, there’s a lot of pressure on the top seed,” Ernst said. “We found out last year.
“These are good teams. Everyone talks about our streak (13 straight) and Walsh’s streak (12 straight), Cedarville came in having won (6 of 7).
“Give them a lot of credit. Their second half, I thought they played really well with a sense of urgency. They had us on our heels a good part of the second half.”
Cedarville stayed in it by offensive rebounding and free throws, two stats Ernst often sees go hand in hand.
The Yellow Jackets turned 15 offensive rebounds into 14 second chance points and shot 16 of 19 at the foul line.
They also got a huge effort from their 6-foot-7 freshman guard Quinton Green at team-highs of 24 points and nine rebounds, five offensive.
His explosive ability in the paint and quickness in transition was a thorn in UF’s side all game long.
“Those are the two things he does and he does them both really well,” Ernst said. “Him going 3 for 3 from the 3-point line, if he keeps that up, he’s going to be a boatload in this league.”
CU’s Connor TenHove added 15 points and eight rebounds while Maughmer totaled 12 points.
TenHove 6-13 0-0 15, Van Horn 2-6 2-4 6, Maughmer 5-12 0-0 12, Zawadzki 0-8 6-6 6, Green 7-11 7-7 24, Parker 1-3 1-2 3, Linkous 1-2 0-0 3, Speelman 2-7 0-0 5, Okoro 1-3 1-2 3. TOTALS: 25-65 16-19 77.
Masterlasco 4-8 1-2 10, Overhiser 0-4 0-0 0, White 13-19 0-0 32, Smith 8-14 3-3 25, Schmock 3-3 0-0 8, George 0-3 0-0 0, Linder 2-4 0-0 5, Stover 0-2 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 30-57 4-5 80.
3-Point GOALS: Cedarville 11-27 (TenHove 3-7, Maughmer 2-3, Zawadzki 0-5, Green 3-3, Parker 1-2, Linkous 1-2, Speelman 1-5); Findlay 16-31 (Masterlasco 1-4, Overhiser 0-2, White 6-8, Smith 6-10, Schmock 2-2, George 0-2, Linder 1-3).
rebounds: Cedarville 38 (Green 9); Findlay 31 (White 11).
ASSISTS: Cedarville 13 (Zawadzki 8); Findlay 18 (Schmock 9).
STEALS: Cedarville 7 (Zawadzki 3); Findlay 6 (Schmock 2).
BLOCKS: Cedarville 2; Findlay 4 (White & Masterlasco 2).
TURNOVERS: Cedarville 7; Findlay 12.
TOTAL FOULS: Cedarville 11; Findlay 17
FOULED OUT: None.
HALFTIME: Findlay, 45-32.