By BRIAN LESTER
Notre Dame College could have warmed up the team bus at halftime.
The Falcons were in a 51-27 hole and the University of Findlay men’s basketball team could have called it a night and eased off the gas pedal.
But the Oilers continued to play hard in the second half.
They continued to attack offensively as if they trailed by 20 and continued to defend as if they needed stops to get back into the game.
It’s not easy to get a team to play hard when it has a lead the size of Ohio, but the Oilers were challenged by head coach Charlie Ernst at halftime to work on the things that they didn’t do well in the opening half against the Falcons on Monday night at Croy Gymnasium.
The starters focused on sharpening every aspect of their game, the bench gained valuable experience and the Oilers finished strong in an 86-58 victory.
UF hardly had its best shooting performance of the year, connecting on only34.7 percent of its shots, but this team has a lot of good shooters and it will have its share of big nights.
But the defense was solid right out of the gate. The Oilers forced 22 turnovers, they rebounded as if their life depended on it, grabbing 55 boards, including 34 on the offensive glass, and never let the Falcons back into the game.
NDC scored 31 points in the second half. Eleven of those points were scored in the final two minutes after the outcome had long been decided.
The fact that UF played hard for 40 minutes against an average opponent bodes well for this team going forward.
After all, the road to a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship begins Thursday night with a battle against Lake Superior State at home. It begins a stretch of six games in 19 days against the always rugged North Division opponents.
The next three weeks are going to be crucial if the Oilers are going to contend for a conference title and NCAA tournament berth.
Every game will offer up a chance to build confidence and grab momentum, and that means UF has to be ready to play its best every time it takes the floor.
None of the games will be as easy to win as the one against NDC was on Monday night, but if the Oilers bring the effort and intensity they had on display against the Falcons, they will be in a position to succeed over the next three weeks.
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