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Kahlig propels Oilers to dominant win over Dragons

By BRIAN LESTER
STAFF WRITER

TIFFIN — Greg Kahlig was in the corner near the University of Findlay bench with a defender in his face early in the second half.

On some days, it might not be the best idea to take a shot in that situation.

The Oilers led Tiffin University by only seven points at the time, but this was a day where Kahlig was dialed in, his shooting touch golden, and he drilled the 3-pointer without hesitation.

It swished the net as he was knocked to the ground and he hit the ensuing free throw.

The four-point play pushed the Findlay lead to 51-40, but more importantly, it came during a 20-4 run that propelled the Oilers to an 81-60 victory in front of a hostile crowd at the Gilmor Center Saturday afternoon.

Kahlig scored 13 of his career-high 33 points during the run, which put a 36-36 tie in the rear-view mirror and gave the Oilers (15-6, 12-5) a 56-40 advantage with under 13 minutes to go in an intense Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference South Division rivalry game.

“My teammates did a good job of finding me all day, and thankfully, that shot went in,” Kahlig said. “It was a big momentum shift.”

Tiffin (8-15, 5-12) was never the same. The Dragons led 7-0 early and only trailed 34-33 at halftime, but they never got on track in the second half against the Oilers’ relentless and unforgiving defensive effort.

Tiffin didn’t have an answer for Kahlig either. The junior knocked down 7 of 9 shots from long range and was 11 of 18 overall from the field. He also grabbed seven rebounds and tallied a steal that he turned into a breakaway jam late in the opening half for a 32-25 lead.

It marked the second time he has hit 30 points this season and the 17th time he has been in double figures as he helped the Oilers maintain their one-game lead in the division and surge into a three-way tie for second in the overall conference standings.

His sizzling effort was a drastic improvement from the 10 points he scored in last month’s 57-55 loss to the Dragons.

“I hit some easy looks early and started feeling it a bit,” Kahlig said. “The last couple of games I’ve been shooting well and I’ve had good games here before. That helped with my confidence. I got into a rhythm.”

This was a circled game on the calendar of the Dragons, who were energized from the start and fed off the raucous crowd, including a green-clad student section behind the Findlay bench that harassed the Oilers.

UF Head coach Charlie Ernst knew his team would be challenged. Tiffin’s win over Findlay in January ended an 81-game conference home win streak.

Motivation wasn’t an issue.

“Tiffin didn’t just beat us the last time. They outplayed us, they outhustled us and they outscrapped us,” Ernst said. “I told our team I didn’t want that to happen here.”

But the Dragons, who have dropped five of seven, had momentum early, surging in front 15-7.

The Oilers responded, stepping up defensively by pressuring the ball harder and becoming more aggressive in their zone.

It translated into confidence on the offensive end, including two big 3-pointers by Sean Samsel (8 points). Kahlig provided the biggest lift, nailing three straight treys, hitting a jumper and throwing down his dunk.

The outburst put the Oilers in front but the Dragons didn’t fall apart. Not with Joe Graessle in the lineup. He came in having scored 20 or more points in seven straight games and got hot near the end of the half, scoring on a layup and burying two deep 3-pointers despite being well defended.

His final trey fell through at the buzzer and sliced the Oilers’ lead to one.

Graessle had 16 at the half but finished with 20 as Aaron Robinson made it difficult for Grassle to get a good look at the basket. Rendering him ineffective was key as the Dragons shot only 33.3 percent from the floor in the final half and 42.6 percent (23 of 54) overall.

“He (Graessle) is a great scorer, and he is going to get a lot of shots up. My goal was to make every shot as tough as possible to make,” Robinson said. “I played as hard as I could.”

Robinson’s defensive effort energized everyone else as the Oilers forced 14 turnovers and gave the Dragons no shot at a second-half comeback.

“They are such an explosive team, and a player like Graessle can get going in a hurry,” Ernst said. “It’s not that the lead is cut at that point, but it lifts the confidence of the rest of the players.”

The Oilers have held their last 13 opponents to 70 points or less. Findlay shot 48.3 percent (28 of 58) from the floor and got 10 points out of Brad Piehl, who also pulled down eight rebounds.

The win caps a stretch where the Oilers played eight of 11 games on the road. They finished 5-3 and now have four of their last five in the regular season at home, starting at 6 p.m. Thursday against rival Ashland University. The Eagles (9-11, 7-10) beat Malone 79-62 on Saturday.

“This was a great win in a very hostile environment. It’s always a big deal when we play here,” Piehl said. “For us to come out and play as well as we did against a tough team is good for our confidence going forward.”

findlay (15-6, 12-5)

Heagen 2-6 0-0 4, Kahlig 11-18 4-5 33, Piehl 4-9 2-2 10, Baity 3-9 3-3 9, Robinson 0-1 2-2 2, Samsel 3-6 0-0 8, Brown 1-1 0-0 2, Smith 1-5 1-2 3, Kaufman 2-2 3-4 8, Frilling 1-1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 28-58 15-18–81.

tiffin (8-15, 5-12)

Sutherin 2-3 0-2 4, Roby 1-7 2-2 5, Boan 4-5 3-6 11, Dennison 3-6 0-0 7, Graessle 8-18 0-0 20, Twine 2-4 0-0 5, Brown 0-3 0-0 0, Rage 0-1 0-0 0, Bouley 1-4 0-0 2, McCormick 2-3 1-2 6. TOTALS: 22-54 6-12–60.

HALFTIME: Findlay, 34-33.

3-Point GOALS: Findlay 10-18 (Kahlig 7-9, Kaufman 1-1, Samsel 2-2, Piehl 0-1, Robinson 0-1, Heagen 0-2, Baity 0-2); Tiffin 8-16 (Graessle 4-6, McCormick 1-1, Twine 1-2, Dennison 1-3, Roby 1-4).

rebounds: Findlay 37 (Piehl 8, Kahlig 7); Tiffin 30 (Roby & McCormick 5). ASSISTS: Findlay 13 (Heagen 6, Robinson 4); Tiffin 14 (Dennison & Graessle 4). STEALS: Findlay 8 (Heagen 3); Tiffin 5 (Graessle 4). BLOCKS: Findlay 1; Tiffin 5 (Graessle 3).

TURNOVERS: Findlay 12, Tiffin 14. TOTAL FOULS: Findlay 11, Tiffin 18. FOULED OUT: None.

Follow me on Twitter @BLester1993.