By BRIAN LESTER
The Matchup: University of Findlay vs. Ashland University at Kates Gymnasium in Ashland, Ohio. Game time set for 5:30 p.m.
Records: Oilers are 10-4 overall and 7-3 in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Eagles are 4-9 overall and 2-8 in the conference.
Series: Findlay leads 58-26. Oilers and Eagles split the season series last year, with Findlay losing 94-80 on the road and winning 79-49 at home.
Last Time Out: The Oilers turned in their worst performance of the season in a 57-55 loss to Tiffin on Saturday at Croy Gymnasium.
Findlay shot only 22.2 percent from the field, including a 13.3 percent effort in the first half, as it had its 81-game conference home win streak snapped.
Greg Kahlig and Aaron Robinson scored 10 points apiece for the Oilers, who trailed 30-22 at halftime. Findlay was out-rebounded 47-45. The Oilers only turned the ball over nine times and forced 15 turnovers.
Ashland was knocked off 73-65 on the road against Malone on Saturday. The Eagles and Pioneers were tied at 29-29 at the half.
Evan Yates scored 21 points and pulled down 15 rebounds. Will Evans added 17 points. Ashland shot 46.2 percent from the field as it dropped its fourth consecutive game.
Scouting the Opponent: Ashland is averaging 65.9 points per outing and holding opponents to 67.5 points per game. The Eagles have scored 70 or less in four consecutive games and have allowed 70 or more in their last four games.
Ashland is shooting 42.8 percent from the floor and holding opponents to 42.5 percent shooting. The Eagles are shooting 33.7 percent from 3-point range and opponents are shooting 31.8 percent from beyond the arc.
The Eagles average 12.8 turnovers per game and force 11.7 per outing.
Senior forward Evan Yates leads the team in scoring at 16.4 points per outing. He is pulling down 9.8 rebounds per game. Junior forward Will Evans is clicking for 9.7 ppg and has hit 18 treys on the year.
Senior guard Ronnie Steward (9.2) and sophomore guard Dewaun Thomas (6.8) have also been steady contributors. The Eagles have hit 90 treys this season.
One to Watch: Senior guard Aaron Robinson has to be the player to spark the Oilers against the Eagles. He plays hard on both ends of the floor, and he needs to be at his best defensively to help the Oilers set the tone early.
Robinson has scored in double figures 10 times this year and is averaging 10.4 points per outing.
He needs to continue to provide a consistent scoring effort, but if he can bring his best effort on defense, the Oilers will be in a position to win. Robinson has tallied 19 steals on the year and is also pulling down 3.6 rebounds per game.
Around the GLIAC: Grand Valley State at Lake Superior State; Wayne State at Michigan Tech; Saginaw Valley State at Northern Michigan; Walsh at Ohio Dominican; Hillsdale at Lake Erie; Ferris State at Northwood; Malone at Tiffin. For more information, check out the GLIAC Basketball Page.
If there was ever a time where the Oilers need a bounce-back win, this is it. After one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen from a Findlay team in my time on the beat, the Oilers need to come out ready to go.
It is rare to see the Oilers not bring the same kind of intensity and effort of their opponent, but that was clearly the case against the Dragons on Saturday.
When this Findlay team plays hard, it’s as good as any team in the conference. The Oilers have seen what playing hard for 40 minutes can result in for them and they need to bring their best effort against the Eagles.
Ashland has lost a lot of close games. In fact, it’s 1-7 in games decided by less than 10 points, and the Oilers have to be able to try and take control early, especially with the Eagles playing at home.
I don’t expect the Oilers to shoot as badly as they did against Tiffin as Findlay is shooting 50 percent or better in five of its last 10 games . The Oilers need shots to fall early, but more importantly, they need to be ready to defend hard.
Playing well defensively and playing with passion and energy will set the stage for success on the offensive end of the floor.
One of the keys for Findlay will be to slow down Evan Yates. Yates is a big-time scorer and a force in the paint. The Oilers can’t allow him to establish himself and get easy looks at the basket.
The Eagles don’t have a high scoring average as a team but they have the ability to have a big game. Remember, they scored 94 on the Oilers last season in Ashland.
Limiting the impact players such as Will Evans, Ronnie Steward and Dewaun Thomas have on the game will be important as well. If one of those players gets going, it can translate into confidence for the rest of the team.
The Oilers also need to be balanced offensively. Only Greg Kahlig and A-Rob cracked double figures against Tiffin. That has to change against Ashland for the Oilers to be in a position to win.
Talent-wise, the Oilers are good enough to win this game. It really comes down to effort. If the Oilers can match the effort the Eagles are going to bring to the table, they will in good shape in this crucial road game.
With Findlay suffering a loss at Croy, it needs to find a way to steal a few road wins to make up a little ground.
The Oilers are still in first place in the South Division and they still have a shot at hosting the conference tournament. But this is the time of the year where they need to take their game to another level if they are going to meet the expectations they have for themselves this season.
It will be interesting to see how things play out. I’ll have more when I arrive at the gym. Follow me on Twitter@BLester1993 for updates throughout the game. I’ll have updates here on the blog as well. Enjoy the game everyone.
Update: Oilers fall 61-60 as their last-second shot comes up short. Tough loss for the Oilers after playing so hard. Need to bounce back big time Saturday.
Update: Oilers have a 58-57 lead with 40.8 to play in second half. UF has played hard and needs to finish the job.
Update: UF needs to dig deep on defense. It leads 56-55 after a 3-pointer by Will Evans. Oilers have a big possession coming up and need to capitalize. They need to be tough defensively as well in final two minutes.
Update: Oilers holding a 53-50 lead with 4:20 to go in second half. UF continues to battle hard on defense but the Eagles refuse to go away. Oilers need to play smart here down the stretch and capitalize on their possessions. Can’t afford to let this win slip away.
Update: Oilers and Eagles playing a tight one. UF down 44-43 as AU has capitalized on some scoring opportunities inside. Oilers have to be able to keep Evan Yates in check and take advantage of the possessions they get down the stretch.
Update: Oilers have a 39-34 lead with 14:26 to play in second half.
Update: Oilers have a 35-31 lead with 15:55 to go in second half. Jake Heagen has started strong this half, scoring twice on slashing layups. UF needs to continue to step it up on defense.
Update: Oilers take a 29-26 lead into halftime. They had an opportunity to stretch the lead out, but now they have to make sure they build on this lead in the second half. This is a game the Oilers need to win.
Update: Oilers have been playing good defense most of this half, but AU has gotten a couple of 3-pointers from Ronnie Steward to keep the score close. Oilers need to finish this half strong. They lead 27-24 but it would be nice to see them push it to 10.
Update: Brad Piehl drills a jumper and the Oilers stretch lead to 24-16 with seven minutes to go in opening half.
Update: Energy has been good for the Oilers on both ends of the floor and UF has done a good job early of taking advantage of its depth. UF leads 20-13 with 9:42 to go in the opening half.
Update: Oilers playing very hard and have really done a good job of taking good shots. Sean Samsel just nailed a trey in front of AU bench to give Oilers a 20-13 lead with 10:40 to go.
Update: Oilers have come out playing hard early. Brad Piehl is matched up against Evan Yates and he was able to back down Yates and score on a layup that tied the game at 7-7 with 14:35 to go in the half. UF has looked good on defense early as well. Just have to keep it going.
Update: It’s game time.
Update: Just about time to tip it off here at Kates Gymnasium. The Oilers looking for a bounce-back win. A lot riding on this game even if it is only January.
Update: Oilers are going through their warm-ups still. Closing in on10 minutes til the opening tip. UF needs to set the tone early, and considering it’s on the road, it needs to set it with solid play on defense.
Update: Oilers will be taking the floor in just a bit for official warm-ups. Alphonso Baity, a freshman, will start at point guard tonight as the Oilers look to get back on track. I think Baity is capable of handling the job as a starter on both ends of the floor.
Update: Every game from here on out is huge, not only for the conference standings, but for the right to get into the NCAA tournament.
With the GLVC stacked because of its power division and teams getting nationally ranked, the Oilers have to be able to take care of business, home and away. No teams are currently ranked in the conference and that might not change anytime soon.
UF needs to set the tone with its defense tonight and play with lot of energy. If it can do those two things, it will have success on offense.
Update: I have arrived at Kates Gymnasium in Ashland as the Oilers get to battle the Eagles here tonight in a South Division showdown. UF needs a win here after falling short at home over the weekend. Every game takes on added importance with only a one-game lead in the division.