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Defense will be key to Oilers’ success in quest for conference championship

By BRIAN LESTER

If there was any concern about the University of Findlay men’s basketball team playing its first game in 12 days, those concerns were stomped on quickly Saturday afternoon at Croy Gymnasium.

The Oilers never let Northwestern (Ohio) get comfortable in their nonconference game, overwhelming them with a tremendous effort on the defensive end of the floor.

It was that tenacious defensive effort that helped spark the Oilers to their latest win, a 74-38 victory over the Racers in their final nonconference game of the season.

UF played hard from start to finish, forcing the Racers to take tough shots from the outside — they were 3-of-24 from beyond the arc — and challenging every shot in the post. The Oilers battled for rebounds, especially on the offensive glass, chased down loose balls and forced several turnovers that led to easy points off the break.

Defense is all based on effort and the Oilers proved it against the Racers.

It didn’t matter that they shot 42.6 percent from the floor or that they only made five 3-pointers. It’s hard to lose if you don’t let the opponent get on track offensively. The Oilers understand that their play on defense eventually translates into success on offense, which on this day, resulted in 21 points off turnovers for UF.

Oilers head coach Charlie Ernst summed up the effort with one statement after being asked all week about the concerns he had regarding his team’s ability to find its rhythm after an extended break.

“I’ve never heard of needing rhythm on defense,” Ernst said. “Our focus, our goal today, was to play hard for 40 minutes and give tremendous effort on the defensive end.”

The plan worked and the Oilers won a game where the outcome was never in doubt.

Sure, it was againt UNO, an NAIA team that had about as much of a chance of winning this game as an army of snowmen does of winning a war on a tropical island, but the thing worth noting about this game is that UF can build on this defensive performance as it returns to Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference action next week.

Shots won’t always fall, especially on the road, but defense can be a constant for the Oilers as they take aim at winning a conference championship. If the Oilers play with the type of intensity and type of effort they put on display against the Racers, they will be in a position to win every game they play, including the one against Saginaw Valley State on Thursday night at the Ryder Center.

Follow me on Twitter @BLester1993 or send me an email at brianlester@thecourier.com.