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Kaufman helps Oilers roll to win over Racers

By BRIAN LESTER

STAFF WRITER

University of Findlay freshman guard Dylan Kaufman had a four-minute stretch in the second half against the University of Northwestern Ohio where he flashed his potential as a college basketball player.

Twice he scored on layups, including once off an offensive rebound, he came up with a steal that led to a fast break dunk by Alphonso Baity, and he blocked two shots that further demoralized the Racers, who were blasted 74-38 by the No. 24 Oilers in a nonconference affair Saturday afternoon at Croy Gymnasium.

Kaufman played hard the entire 20 minutes he was on the floor, and his 14-point, six-rebound, four-steal effort was a step in the right direction for a player who arrived on campus after a stellar prep career in which he was named the Associated Press Division IV Player of the Year twice while leading Berlin Hiland to back-to-back state championships.

“In our high school program, you had to give full effort or you would be on the bench,” Kaufman said. “Tonight, I felt like I really gave it everything I had. This game was a great confidence boost for me.”

Kaufman has always had confidence as a shooter and he didn’t hesitate to let shots fly from the outside against the Racers. His back-to-back treys early in the first half stretched the UF (8-2) lead to 18-3 and helped propel the Oilers to a commanding 36-18 lead at halftime.

The only time he didn’t get something to go his way was late in the first half when he came racing down the floor on a break. Kaufman elevated to throw down a dunk but was hit from behind and came crashing to the floor. He managed to hit both free throws, however, and finished with a career-high in points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field.

The hard foul didn’t surprise Kaufman. He understands scoring doesn’t come as easily as it did at Hiland, where he finished as the program’s all-time leading scorer.

“It’s much easier to score in high school,” Kaufman said. “In college, guys are bigger, faster and stronger. But I’ve worked a lot on hitting my 3-pointers. I know if I hit those shots, other things will come easier for me.”

UF head coach Charlie Ernst said at the beginning of the season that Kaufman would be one of the freshmen who would be given an opportunity to make an impact.

“He has been making shots the whole year, but he is starting do a lot more,” Ernst said. “You don’t ever want to be a guy that is just known as a shooter. He is getting better at defense, he is a good passer and he is a good secondary ball-handler. He has shown a lot of growth as a player the last few weeks.”

Effort was the key to success against the Racers (8-6), an NAIA team that has played well lately, having won six of its last seven.

UF was playing their first game in 12 days, and getting on track offensively was a concern. Defense, however, is based on effort and the Oilers made it tough for the Racers to get good looks at the basket and they weren’t afraid to challenge shots in the paint.

UNO shot 23.8 percent (15-of-63) from the field and misfired on 21 3-point attempts. It also turned the ball over 19 times. Derrick Tate and Blake Bush, the Racers’ top scoring threats at 16.7 and 13.8 points per game, respectively, combined for 12 points. Tate scored 9.

“I told the guys at the shoot-around this morning that the question I’ve been getting is if I was concerned with our rhythm coming off the break,” Ernst said. “I’ve never heard of needing rhythm on defense. Our focus, our goal today, was to play hard for 40 minutes and give tremendous effort on the defensive end.”

All things considered, the Oilers weren’t bad on offense, shooting at a 42.6 percent (26-of-61) clip. Brad Piehl got UF going by backing down his defender for easy shots in the paint. The senior scored twice to give the Oilers a 6-0 advantage and finished with 10 points.

Greg Kahlig was also aggressive as he knocked down 5 of his 6 shots and poured in a game-high 16. He did most of his damage late in the game when he made two layups, hit a free throw and drilled a jumper to extend the UF lead to 65-32 with just over six minutes remaining.

Alphonso Baity and Mark Frilling pumped in 8 points apiece. Frilling nearly finished in double figures as his last-second shot from beyond half-court in the first half grazed the right side of the rim as the buzzer went off.

“The coaches wanted us to start out on a positive note, and I thought we did set the tone right away,” Piehl said. “We didn’t make a lot of perimeter shots but we did a good job of getting inside off good ball movement. A lot of players scored and everyone played hard.”

The game against UNO is the last time anything will come easy for UF, which returns to Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play on Thursday, battling Saginaw Valley State (5-3, 3-2) in a 6 p.m. game at the Ryder Center in University Center, Mich.

It marks the start of a stretch where the Oilers, sitting at 5-1 in league play and determined to contend for a conference title, will play eight of the next 11 on the road.

“Every game is tough in this conference, especially on the road,” Piehl said. “We want to go out and set the tone in that first game and hope we can carry it over to the rest of our games.”

NORTHWESTERN OHIO (8-6)

Tate 2-11 5-8 9, Toney 1-2 0-1 2, Bush 1-5 0-0 3, Scott 3-7 0-0 7, Elliott 3-10 0-0 6, Pottkotter 1-2 0-0 2, Hintz 2-9 0-5 4, Snyder 0-3 0-0 0, Slagle 2-5 0-0 5, Balzer 0-3 0-0 0, Cross 0-6 0-0 0. TOTALS: 15-63 5-9–38.

FINDLAY (8-2)

Heagen 2-4 1-2 6, Kahlig 5-6 5-5 16, Piehl 4-8 2-3 10, Samsel 0-1 0-0 0, Robinson 1-6 1-2 3, Brown 1-6 0-0 3, Baity 3-5 2-2 8, Baker 0-3 1-2 1, Smith 1-7 1-2 3, Baldwin 0-0 0-0 0, Kaufman 5-7 2-2 14, Brencans 0-1 2-2 2, Kohls 0-2 0-0 0, Frilling 4-5 0-0 8. TOTALS: 26-61 17-22–74.

3-Point GOALS: Findlay 5-19 (Heagen 1-2, Kahlig 1-2, Piehl 0-1, Samsel 0-1, Robinson 0-3, Brown 1-2, Baity 0-1, Baker 0-1, Smith 0-2, Kaufman 2-3, Kohls 0-1); Northwestern Ohio 3-24 (Tate 0-1, Bush 1-3, Scott 1-3, Elliott 0-2, Pottkotter 0-1, Hintz 0-5, Snyder 0-1, Slagle 1-3, Balzer 0-2, Cross 0-3).

HALFTIME: Findlay, 36-18.

rebounds: Findlay 46 (Piehl 7, Kaufman 6); Northwestern Ohio 43 (Tate 7).

turnovers: Northwestern Ohio 19, Findlay 12.

STEALS: Findlay 14 (Kaufman 4); Northwestern Ohio (Tate 2).

ASSISTS: Findlay 11 (Kahlig 2); Northwestern Ohio 5.

BLOCKED SHOTS: Findlay 6 (Kaufman 2); Northwestern Ohio 3.

FOULS: Findlay 16, Northwestern Ohio 13.

FOULED OUT: None.

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