By ANDY WOLF
The University of Findlay men’s basketball team is looking to do what it’s done all season long — bounce back from losses.
The Oilers are one of five teams coming off a loss entering the Midwest Regional portion of the Division II tournament.
The other three are conference tournament champions.
Findlay fell to Walsh 58-52 in overtime at home last Saturday in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference tournament final, snapping its 13-game win streak.
The loss cost them nothing seed-wise as the No. 3 seed Oilers take on No. 6 Drury at noon Saturday.
The only thing lost another elusive GMAC tourney championship ring.
“The Walsh loss motivates us to keep winning,” Liberty-Benton grad and sophomore forward Anthony Masterlasco said. “We really wanted to win that championship game, obviously.
“If we focus in and set our mindset on winning three straight games, hopefully we can make it out.”
Masterlasco is one of four UF players scoring in double figures at 10.7 points per game.
GMAC Player of the Year Alex White leads the way at 18.7 points per game. Fellow senior Trey Smith (11.8 ppg) has a team-high 78 3-pointers and junior Aaron Overhiser (14.2 ppg) is second.
All four are shooting at least 40 percent from downtown.
The other starter is sophomore point guard Tommy Schmock (7.4 ppg) who seventh nationally at 190 assists — also a school record.
Rounding out the shortened bench rotation are Chazz George (8.0 ppg), Ethan Linder (6.9 ppg) and Deven Stover (4.3 ppg).
It became a footnote in the Walsh loss, but Findlay broke its school record for assists at 544. Last year’s squad set the old mark with 539.
“I had no idea we did that to be honest,” Masterlasco said. “I’m not surprised at the same time because we’re an unselfish team; we move the ball a lot. Any night, anyone can go off and score 20.”
The Oilers (27-4) haven’t endured many lows or losses, for that matter.
But when they have, they’ve righted the ship each time.
Findlay started the season 6-0 overall.
Yet, Cedarville’s tenacious zone defense was too tall of a task on Dec. 1, and the Yellow Jackets delivered the Oilers their first loss 82-69.
UF got them back, twice.
The Oilers rallied from 15 points down in the first half to beat them 81-63 at home (Jan. 31).
Findlay also held off Cedarville in the GMAC semis 80-77 at the buzzer.
“That’s the way our program is designed,” Overhiser said. “We have a great program here at Findlay. I know that we have great coaches. They don’t allow us to dwell on losses.”
Just 18 days and three wins later after the Cedarville loss, UF took on Lewis in a top-25 nonleague showdown on the road.
The Oilers led for a lot of the game, but the Flyers, the eventual Great Lakes Valley Conference regular season champs, took charge in the final 5 minutes and survived a potential tying 3-pointer by Smith at the buzzer to win 73-70.
One calendar month later on Jan. 19, Hillsdale College came to Croy Gymnasium and hung 93 points on UF in an 11-point win.
Findlay responded by reeling off 13 straight wins, including a 75-70 triumph at Hillsdale (Feb. 9) that moved them into sole possession of first place in the GMAC.
After beating Hillsdale, the Oilers particularly tried to work on its defense.
“Ever since the Hillsdale game, we’ve really been focused on defense, holding teams pretty much under their average,” Masterlasco said. “The defense right now is probably the most important thing we’ve been preaching and working on.”
Though, arguably, UF has been sharpening its defense all season long.
Every month has yielded a lower points average than the previous: November (74.5 ppg), December (72.5), January (67.7), February (67.2) and March (63.5).
“Especially going into this week, we’re locked in (defensively),” Overhiser said. “(Head) coach (Charlie) Ernst does a really good job emphasizing certain things about each team, to take away certain strengths of the team.”
There’s a bit of a vengeance factor for Drury (21-11), too, who fell to the Oilers in the same stage and round last season.
UF is practically guaranteed a little more history with any of the other six regional teams.
There’s the obvious, potential rematch with top-seed Lewis regional final.
Findlay and No. 2 seed Bellarmine (26-4) have met in the tournament the past two seasons, trading wins.
Findlay also dispatched No. 4 seed Southern Indiana in the 2017 opening round and No. 5 seed Ashland was its biggest rival from its Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference days.
No. 7 seed Walsh (GMAC) and No. 8 Grand Valley State (GLIAC) each earned automatic bids.
GVSU (19-12) earned its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2009 — which UF beat in the opening round en route to capturing a national title at 36-0.
To Overhiser, there’s no such thing as too much familiarity.
“We’ve been here before that’s for sure,” he said. “It really comes down to how we know how to prepare and that at this time of year it’s anybody’s ball game. The team that’s more prepared is going to do that.”