By BRIAN LESTER
PAINESVILLE — Back-to-back losses by a single possession left the University of Findlay men’s basketball team looking vulnerable in a conference where it has established a run of success.
But the script looked different Saturday afternoon at the Osborne Center for a team that has won six Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament championships in the past nine years.
The Oilers played aggressively and executed on both ends of the floor, and behind a 30-point performance from Greg Kahlig they nailed down an important 83-68 road win over the Storm.
Kahlig scored 20-plus points for the fifth time this season, reaching a career-high on the strength of five 3-pointers, and fueled Findlay (11-5, 8-4 GLIAC) to a victory that keeps it in a tie for first place with Hillsdale in the GLIAC South Division.
The junior forward did his damage early, burying four treys in a four-minute spurt to take the Oilers to a 28-14 lead with 9:30 to go in the opening half.
Shots don’t always come easy for Kahlig, who is often guarded tightly because of his scoring ability, but because the Oilers opted to attack the inside first against the Storm (5-10, 2-9), he got open looks on kick-outs.
He finished 5 of 6 shooting from beyond the arc and nailed all nine of his free throws. The Oilers led 45-28 at halftime and Kahlig had 22 points at the break.
“My teammates did a really good job of getting in the lane and getting me wide-open looks,” Kahlig said. “Thankfully, the shots went in and I was able to help spark the team.”
The Oilers had gotten anxious from beyond the arc during their two-game slide, attempting 53 and only hitting 12. But Findlay made the most of its practice time on Friday to change its method of attack and went 8 of 17 from 3-point range.
“We worked hard in one day’s time at coming to a jump stop at the end of dribble penetration and pass faking and seeing what is there,” Findlay head coach Charlie Ernst said. “Fortunately, Greg kept getting open and we kept finding him. We play our best when we don’t shoot 30 3-pointers. Tonight, we took 17. That is a good number for our team.”
The Storm put an emphasis on pressing the Oilers, and late in the second half it translated into a comeback attempt after Lake Erie had fallen behind by 21 when Jake Heagen soared in to tip in a missed shot and put the Oilers in front 49-28.
Lake Erie capitalized on turnovers and got within 60-51 on two free throws by Nait Tait with less than 10 minutes to play.
Just when it appeared the Storm was building momentum, Dylan Kaufman knocked down a 3-pointer to push the lead out to 63-51.
The Oilers, who have held 12 opponents to 70 points or less, sealed the deal by going 11 of 14 from the line down the stretch. They were 21 of 26 overall. Aaron Robinson hit a 3-pointer down the stretch and Mark Frilling helped finish the job by scoring on a putback that made the score 80-62 with 2:52 remaining.
“It was really big for us to respond,” Kahlig said. “They were playing really good defense and we had to get our composure back. Dylan hit a big three to get us back on track. We did a good job of finishing the game.”
The Oilers also started well.
Alphonso Baity made his second straight start at point guard and the freshman set the tone early by driving inside. He slashed into the lane for a layup and drew a foul to put Findlay in front 12-5. Baity scored 10 points, dished out three assists and tallied two steals.
His all-around effort was vital as the Oilers got back on track, shooting 50 percent (27 of 54) from the field after two straight games of shooting less than 40 percent.
“Everyone will talk about the 30 Greg scored, and Greg did have a great game, but I am equally happy for Alphonso,” Ernst said. “We encouraged him to be aggressive because he is a really good offensive player. ”
Brad Piehl also cracked double figures, pumping in 10 points. Frilling came through with nine points and six rebounds.
The Storm shot 50.9 percent (28 of 55) from the floor and was paced by Riley Thomas, who time and again came up with big shots en route to scoring 16.
“We were able to protect the ball and did our best to grind them,” Ernst said. “They wanted to pressure and it’s hard to do time after time. It made them less effective on the offensive end.”
For the Oilers, this was about finding a way to bounce back in the face of adversity.
“We needed this win badly and it feels great to win it,” Kahlig said. “We played well against a good team and hopefully we can build on it and continue to play hard the rest of the season.”
Findlay (11-5, 8-4 GLIAC)
Heagen 2-5 0-0 4, Kahlig 8-13 9-9 30, Piehl 5-7 2-2 12, Baity 3-6 4-5 10, Robinson 1-5 0-0 3, Samsel 0-5 0-0 0, Smith 3-4 1-2 8, Kaufman 2-6 2-4 7, Frilling 3-3 3-4 9, Brencans 0-0 0-0 0, Brown 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 27-54 21-26 83.
Lake erie (5-10, 2-9 GLIAC)
Alexander 1-2 0-0 2, Bosley 3-5 0-0 6, Sims 3-5 1-2 7, Parker 0-3 0-0 0, Thomas 7-13-1-1 16, Matheson 0-0 0-0 0, Howard 4-6 1-1 9, Tait 4-7 2-2 11, Dudley 4-9 2-2 13, Walczak 2-3 0-1 4, Baker 0-2 0-0 0. TOTALS: 28-55 7-9 68.
3-Point GOALS: Findlay 8-17 (Kahlig 5-6, Robinson 1-4, Kaufman 1-3, Smith 1-1, Heagen 0-1, Baity 0-1, Samsel 0-1); Lake Erie 5-17 (Dudley 3-7, Thomas 1-5, Tait 1-2, Alexander 0-1, Bosley 0-1, Parker 0-1).
rebounds: Findlay 37 (Heagen 8, Piehl & Frilling 6); Lake Erie 19 (Tait 4).
ASSISTS: Findlay 16 (Robinson 4, Baity & Kaufman 3); Lake Erie 12 (Parker & Thomas 3).
STEALS: Findlay 9 (Peihl 3); Lake Erie 9 (Thomas 3).
BLOCKS: Findlay 3 (Kahlig, Baity & Smith); Lake Erie 2 (Howard 2).
TURNOVERS: Findlay 15, Lake Erie 14.
TOTAL FOULS: Findlay 12, Lake Erie 20./
FOULED OUT: None.
HALFTIME: Findlay, 45-28
Follow me on Twitter @BLester1993.