By BRIAN LESTER
The Matchup: University of Findlay vs. Malone University at Croy Gymnasium in Findlay. Game time is set for 2 p.m.
Records: Oilers are 12-5 overall and 9-4 in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Pioneers are 10-6 overall and 8-5 in the GLIAC.
Series: UF leads 28-12.
Last Time Out: The Oilers nailed down their second consecutive win on Thursday night, edging Walsh University 67-65 at Alumni Arena in Canton.
Brad Piehl poured in 16 points and grabbed six rebounds while Greg Kahlig and Jake Heagen clicked for 11 points apiece. Heagen also grabbed eight rebounds and dished out five assists.
The Oilers, who led 40-33 at halftime but trailed 50-44 at one point in the second half, shot 46.4 percent from the field and forced 17 turnovers.
Malone rolled to a 79-58 win over Hillsdale College at home on Thursday. Isiah Elliott scored 27 points to lead the way while Zach Bates dropped in 14 points and pulled down eight rebounds. Che Richardson scored 12 and Cory Veldhuizen added 10.
The Pioneers shot 51 percent from the field and made nine shots from beyond the arc.
Scouting the Opponent: The Pioneers, who have won their last four games, are averaging 73.9 points per game and holding opponents to 72.7 points per outing. Malone is shooting 43.1 percent from the field and opponents are shooting 45.4 percent from the floor against them. The Pioneers are shooting 37 percent from 3-point range and are allowing opponents to shoot 36.6 percent from beyond the arc.
The Pioneers are grabbing 35.4 rebounds per game and opponents are pulling down 37.4 rebounds per outing. Malone is averaging 11.6 turnovers per outing and forcing 12.8 turnovers per game.
Elliott, a junior guard, leads the team in scoring at 19.6 points per game. He has hit 30 3-pointers and has tallied 74 assists and 28 steals.
Veldhuizen is averaging 11.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. The junior forward has dished out 42 assists.
Richardson (9.3), a junior guard, and Bates (7.4), a senior forward, have also played well, as has junior forward Vince Kazmierczak (7.1), who has hit 22 3-pointers.
The Pioneers have scored 70 or more 10 times and have allowed 70 or more 10 times.
One to Watch: Jake Heagen could end up playing a big role in the game against the Pioneers. Heagen had a good all-around game against the Cavs and has scored 9 or more points in six of his last 11 games, scoring in double figures three times during the stretch.
It’s not just that Heagen is a good scorer, though. It’s his ability to find open teammates for good shots that is impressive. He has 26 assists on the year and has also been tough on defense with 18 steals.
Heagen is tough to slow down when he decides to attack the basket, but as long as he is playing hard on both ends of the floor, he will play a role in putting the Oilers in a position to win.
Around the GLIAC: Michigan Tech at Lake Superior State; Walsh at Hillsdale; Lake Erie at Ohio Dominican; Tiffin at Ashland; Grand Valley State at Wayne State; Northern Michigan at Northwood; Ferris State at Saginaw Valley State.
Check out the GLIAC Basketball Page for more information.
We have reached the end of the January schedule for the Oilers. They play Malone today and I don’t think any of the players need any extra motivation for the game.
Malone was the team that came in here last season and ended UF’s 71-game home win streak. It was one of the most painful losses of the season for the Oilers and the Pioneers have played well in their first season in the conference.
The Pioneers have a lot of good outside shooters and the Oilers have to be tough on the perimeter. This is a game where the solid defensive play of Aaron Robinson is going to be important as UF looks for its first win at home since Jan. 10.
Alphonso Baity will also need to have a good game running the point, especially when Malone has Eliott running its offense. Baity has looked poised in his first three starts and has made a lot of strides since the beginning of the year.
The Oilers have played well defensively lately, holding their last nine opponents to under 70, and they will need to turn in another good defensive effort in this game to pick up the win.
UF needs to continue to look inside first for shots as that should allow things to open up on the outside. The Oilers have done a better job of taking good shots and the poise and mental toughness they showed on the road againt Walsh the other night should benefit them today in another key conference battle.
The Oilers come in with a one-game lead in the South Division standings and they can take a big step toward winning the title by taking care of business at home.
UF needs to get this win and build up added momentum before it heads out on the road for three more games. If the Oilers play their style of basketball, especially by setting the tone on the defensive end and making big plays on offense, they should be in a position to close out this month with a win.
I’ll have more when I arrive at the gym. You can follow me on Twitter @BLester1993 for updates as well. Enjoy the game everyone.
Update: Game is in the books. Oilers begin new home streak with 74-62 win over the Pioneers.
Update: Oilers have a 69-62 lead with 2:17 to go in this game. They need to be careful here. Playing good defense down the stretch is going to be important against a Malone team that won’t hesitate to launch it up from 3-point range.
Update: A-Rob has come up with a couple of big shots, hitting a trey and scoring on a layup. The Oilers lead the Pioneers 65-58 with 4:27 to go. Their effort today has been impressive against a good Malone team.
Update: Oilers have stepped it up on both ends of the floor and lead 55-47 with 9:14 to play in the second half. Jack Smith just nailed a wide-open trey. Malone has struggled to hit shots against the UF pressure and Oilers have a chance to put this game out of reach.
Update: Good start by Jake Heagen to the second half. He has all four points and Oilers lead 36-31 with 17:30 to go in second half.
Update: It’s halftime and the Oilers take a 32-29 lead into the break.
Update: Oilers have continued to make good plays offensively but need to come up with some big defensive stops and fuel a run to close out this half with momentum.
Update: Oilers continue to do a good job of running their offense. Sean Samsel just found a cutting Mark Frilling for a layup as Oilers go in front 18-17. UF needs to get some defensive stops here.
Update: Jake Heagen comes out playing well as does the Oilers’ offense as a whole. UF up 12-10 with 14:36 to go in opening half.
Update: Here we go UF fans. It’s game time.
Update: Almost time for the Oilers to get going here at Croy Gymnasium. UF does not need to be reminded of the importance of this game. It not only carries weight in the division race, it’s also a win the Oilers need to stay in contention for an NCAA berth.
Update: I am at Croy Gymnasium as the Oilers get set to battle the Pioneers in a key South Division game. If the Oilers can win this one, they will be one step closer to a division crown. So important for UF to get the job done here at home today after playing two good games on the road.