By BRIAN LESTER
CANTON — Any last inch of wiggle room the University of Findlay men’s basketball team had in terms of making the NCAA Division II tournament is now gone.
For the Oilers from here on out after a 77-69 loss to Malone University Saturday afternoon at Osborne Hall, it’s all about win or wait til next season.
Findlay suffered through one of those days where every shot the Pioneers took seemed to go in and where it always seemed to be a step behind Malone when it came to winning the hustle plays or fighting for crucial rebounds.
The Oilers have been solid on defense all season, especially when it comes o defending the 3-point line, but the Pioneers hit 11 treys in the win, including eight in the opening half.
Prior to Saturday, the Oilers had never given up more than eight treys in a game, let alone a half. It was just one of those days where momentum and confidence were on the side of the Pioneers.
Malone played well Saturday and deserve credit for the win, but the Oilers know they didn’t play their best basketball game in a tough environment on the road.
Still, Findlay isn’t doomed even though it is backed into a corner.
The Oilers need to close out the regular season with a win over Hillsdale College next Saturday at Croy Gymnasium and they will have to make a run at the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament championship to get into the NCAA tournament.
The fate of their season now rests on how they play from this point on.
“What we need to worry about right now is Hillsdale,” Findlay head coach Charlie Ernst said. “If we win that game, we’ll end up with a good seed, we’ll have a home game and we will have an opportunity to do what we did last year and that is get ourselves into the (NCAA) tournament by winning the conference tournament.”
Ernst doesn’t expect motivation to be an issue.
“When we have to rely on other people, we are not very good. When we’re motivated because of ourselves, we can be very good and that is what we need to have back for next week.”
The Oilers are good enough to get the job done. It’s just a matter of going out and making it happen.
Follow me on Twitter @BLester1993.