By BRIAN LESTER
HILLSDALE, Mich. — Just when it seemed as if the University of Findlay men’s basketball team was moving in the right direction, the Oilers took a step back Saturday afternoon against Hillsdale College.
The Oilers lost 56-51 at Jesse Phillips Arena, and while they still cling to a half-game lead in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference South Division standings, their backs are now against the wall.
Any shot they have of going to the NCAA Division II tournament and being a team that can live up its potential hinges on a strong finish and making a run at the conference tournament championship.
The Oilers have the talent to be a very good basketball team, and from a defensive standpoint, they have been solid on that end of the floor, having held their last 11 opponents to under 70 points.
But what has hurt the Oilers in their last four losses, all four coming by a combined 12 points, is the fact that they just haven’t consistently shown the toughness needed to win those close games.
The Oilers lacked that toughness and consistency in the first half against Hillsdale on Saturday and it put them in a bad situation early before they nearly rallied for one heck of a comeback win.
Findlay is capable of being a tough, aggressive team. It was on display in wins over Ferris State and Grand Valley State in December, it was on display in an impressive road win over Walsh last month and we also saw it in their wins over Lake Erie College and Malone last month.
The Oilers still have a chance to get on track. It was a year ago at this time that they had six losses and needed a strong finish.
They ended up winning 10 of their last 11, including a conference tournament championship.
Findlay finds itself in a similar situation.Winning is the only option.
Talent and effort aren’t the issues with this team. The Oilers have talent and they always play hard. It’s comes down to being tougher than their opponent for 40 minutes night and night out the rest of the way.
Their backs are against the wall and it’s time to see how they respond.
If the Oilers show they can be a team that plays tougher than their opponents, they will respond in the right way.
Follow me on Twitter @BLester1993.