By BRIAN LESTER
When Alphonso Baity prepared to do a postgame interview Monday night outside the University of Findlay locker room, his older teammates took notice and joked with the freshman about his first moment in the spotlight.
Baity had made Notre Dame College take notice of him earlier in the night, turning in a 13-point effort that was highlighted by a pair of 3-pointers, including one early in the first half that gave the Oilers their first double-digit lead of the night at 19-7.
Those shots helped take the drama out of this game quickly as No. 13 Findlay rolled to an 86-58 nonconference win over the Falcons at Croy Gymnasium.
Baity, who also grabbed four rebounds and tallied two assists and one steal in 23 minutes, has been making strides with each game. This was just the latest step forward for the point guard.
“I’ve been working hard to do what I can to help the team,” Baity said. “I’m starting to feel more comfortable in the offense, and when that first shot fell, I thought maybe this was going to be a good night for me.”
Baity’s growth has been aided by the fact that he has been able to spend time on the floor with starting point guard Sean Samsel.
“It helps a lot,” Baity said. “When someone wants to harass the ball, we have another point guard out there to relieve the stress. It makes a big difference.”
UF coach Charlie Ernst noted that Baity has had to adjust to college basketball quickly but he has handled the challenge effectively and has slowly gained confidence.
Confidence seemed to be the theme of the night for the Oilers (2-1) as they broke through with their best 3-point shooting performance of the season.
UF torched the Falcons (1-3) with 12 3-pointers, including eight in the first half, en route to building a 51-27 lead at halftime.
“We broke down their defense,” Ernst said. “They were trying to double us in the post, and when you do that, you eliminate a defender on the weak side.
“Someone is going to get a wide open shot. We are a good shooting team but haven’t had a great start to the season. Maybe tonight will give us confidence.”
Greg Kahlig buried five treys as he scored 18 points to go along with 12 rebounds for his first double-double of the year.
Aaron Robinson caught fire late in the opening half, nailing three consecutive shots from beyond the arc to give the Oilers a 49-27 lead with 2:04 to play. Robinson dropped in 13 points
The Oilers shot only 34.7 percent (26 of 75) from the field but were able to create a lot of opportunities by working the ball around and forcing the Falcons to burn a lot of energy playing defense.
“We wanted to make them work and get them out of rhythm,” Robinson said. “I thought we had good ball movement. I was just taking what they were giving me. I was feeling it a little bit and was shooting the ball with confidence.”
Notre Dame couldn’t say the same. The Falcons struggled against UF’s defense and shot 38.6 percent (22 of 57) from the floor.
Notre Dame had come into the game averaging over 85 points per outing, but the final score would have looked a lot worse had it not been for a surge of 11 consecutive points in the final two minutes.
Eric Dummermuth, who was averaging 24.7 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, was a non-factor.
The 6-foot-6 senior forward scored 10 points and grabbed 11 boards, but his effort mattered little as Jake Heagen and Jack Smith took turns defending him most of the game.
Heagen finished with nine points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals. Smith came off the bench to pump in 10 points and grab six rebounds. He also came up with two of UF’s 14 steals steals on a night when the Oilers forced 22 turnovers.
“Some people think Jake and Jack are undersized, but they both proved how strong they are by the way they played against (Dummermuth),” Ernst said. “When you take him away from that team, they struggle.”
Defense was indeed the focus of the Oilers, who have held their last two opponents to less than 70 points. UF also crashed the glass, underscoring a 55-36 rebounding advantage with 34 offensive boards.
“We knew they weren’t one of our better opponents on the schedule, but we didn’t take them lightly,” Robinson said. “We had to set the tone on defense and not let them get into the game and get confidence.”
The second half was a formality. Findlay was able to use its bench for longer periods and eventually pushed the lead to 41 when Kaspars Brencans scored on a putback to give the Oilers an 84-43 lead with 4:49 to play.
“I wanted us to make sure we were working hard as a team and focusing on what we weren’t doing well in the first half and improve,” Ernst said. “For the most part, we did that. I’m excited about this win.”
The Oilers won’t have long to enjoy it, though. Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play begins Thursday night with a 6 p.m. tilt against Lake Superior State (2-1).
If the Oilers hope to reclaim the GLIAC South Division crown and take aim at defending their conference tourney title, starting off strong is key to making it happen.
“We have a big month in front of us with the crossover games against the North Division teams and winning is important if we want to accomplish our goals,” Robinson said.
“We have to take it one game at a time and know that every win we get now will help us in the long run.”
NOTRE DAME (1-3)
Rose 1-2 0-0 2, Dummermuth 4-11 2-3 10, Galter 1-5 0-0 2, Taylor 0-4 0-0 0, DeArmond 3-5 0-0 6, Ensz 1-3 0-0 2, Carlin 2-5 0-0 5, Steiner 0-0 0-0 0, Thompson 1-2 1-2 3, Huntley 3-5 3-3 9, Figueroa-Jackson 0-0 0-0 0, D. Hickoff 3-5 2-2 9, R. Hickoff 2-4 3-4 7, Tekie 1-3 0-0 3. TOTALS: 22-57 11-14–58.
Heagen 3-5 1-2 9, Kahlig 5-11 5-9 18, Piehl 2-8 3-3 7, Samsel 1-3 0-0 2, Robinson 4-8 2-2 13, Brown 0-3 0-2 0, Baity 3-11 5-5 13, Baker 0-1 0-0 0, Smith 3-6 3-3 10, Baldwin 0-0 0-0 0, Kaufman 2-9 2-2 7, Brencans 3-5 0-0 6, Kohls 0-2 0-0 0, Frilling 0-3 1-2 1. TOTALS: 26-75 22-30–86.
HALFTIME: Findlay, 51-27.
3-Point GOALS: Findlay 12-28 (Heagen 2-2, Kahlig 3-7, Samsel 0-2, Robinson 3-6, Baity 2-5, Baker 0-1, Smith 1-1, Kaufman 1-3, Kohls 0-1). Notre Dame 3-16 (Dummermuth 0-2, Gaiter 0-2, Taylor 0-2, Carlin 1-3, Huntley 0-2, Fiqeroa-Jackson0-1, D. Hickoff 1-1, R. Hickoff 0-1, Tekie 1-2).
rebounds: Findlay 55 (Kahlig 12, Smith & Frilling 6); Notre Dame 36 (Dummermuth 11, D. Hickoff 6).
turnovers: Notre Dame 22, Findlay 14.
ASSISTS: Findlay 17 (Heagen & Kahlig 4); Notre Dame 4 (Taylor 2).
STEALS: Findlay 14 (Heagen 3); Notre Dame 8 (D. Hickoff & Ensz 2).
BLOCKS: Notre Dame 6 (Ensz & Huntley 2); Findlay 6 (Piehl & Kaufman 2).
FOULS: Notre Dame 24, Findlay 14.
FOULED OUT: None.