By BRIAN LESTER
NORTH CANTON — Ice water has run through the veins of Greg Kahlig on more than one occasion in his basketball career.
He has taken plenty of clutch shots in pressure-packed moments.
But the one he hit Thursday night in Alumni Arena, the jumper with 3 seconds left that put the University of Findlay men’s basketball team in front by one in a battle with Walsh University on the road, was easily one of the biggest.
Not only did it cap a thrilling 82-81 comeback win on the road for the Oilers over the No 22 Cavaliers, but it also put the exclamation point on a career-high 42-point performance for the senior forward.
This Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference matchup wasn’t officially sealed until the Oilers clamped down on the final possession by WU, forcing Chall Montgomery to take a tough 3-point shot that bounced off the rim as time expired.
WU led by nine with six minutes to play, but Kahlig carried the Oilers (20-4, 16-4 GLIAC) to a win that puts them one step closer to a South Division title and an NCAA Division II tournament berth.
Kahlig scored 31 points in the second half as he turned in his second consecutive 40-point game, both on the road.
“You never dream of doing it. You can’t ask for something like that,” Kahlig said. “It just happens. It’s a special moment. I’m just really glad for the team.”
Kahlig talked about he and the Oilers’ refusal to quit, even when they seemed to be down and out as WU (19-4, 15-4) had momentum and the crowd in its favor.
But he also talked about something else that drove him against the Cavaliers, and that was the game three weeks ago against WU at Croy Gymnasium. The Oilers were beaten down 81-61 and Kahlig scored just eight points.
This time, Kahlig was 18 of 27 from the field and knocked down five treys, his last 3-pointer coming with 25.8 to play and a defender all over him. It swished through and cut the WU lead to 81-80.
“I was frustrated the first time and lost my head a little bit,” Kahlig said. “Tonight, I stayed positive no matter what and kept my head in the right frame of mind.”
UF head coach Charlie Ernst wasn’t surprised at all that Kahig showed up ready to go this time.
“That loss has been eating at him,” Kahlig said. “He’s been waiting for this opportunity. Greg is just unbelievable. I’ve said everything I can say about Greg in previous interviews. The guy is unreal.”
While Kahlig stole the spotlight on a night when the Oilers shot 54.4 percent (31 of 57) from the field, this was a team win.
Alphonso Baity finished with 14 points, including two free throws that sliced the WU lead to 79-74 with 1:14 to go. Dylan Kaufman added 10 points.
The Oilers got after it as a team on defense. Down 70-61 with 5:24 to play, the Oilers stepped it up a notch and forced the Cavaliers to take tougher shots en route to mounting a comeback.
“We had that will to get it done. We accepted the challenge and made plays,” junior forward Jake Heagen said. “We were up against a great team on the road, but we found a way in the end.”
The first half was back-and-forth and a trey by Kahlig cut the WU lead to 38-37 at halftime. It seemed to be unraveling for UF with just more than 11 minutes to play when Montgomery threw down a dunk for a 58-50 lead.
The Oilers burned a timeout and the WU players raised their hands up to try and fire up the crowd even more.
The Cavaliers, who shot 55.2 percent (32 of 58) from the field, were on a roll. That was their moment on a night when four players scored in double figures, including 17 from Jeff Copeland.
But the Oilers dug deep and battled back as they won their sixth consecutive road game and extended their overall win streak to six games.
“Walsh has so many weapons, and we threw everything but the kitchen sink at them,” Ernst said. “Give Walsh a lot of credit. They played great. We beat a heck of a team. I am very proud of my team. We never gave up. We played until the buzzer.”
UF now has a half game lead in the division and this win was big for the NCAA tournament because WU was fifth in the Midwest Region, while the Oilers were eighth. Only the top eight make the tournament.
The Oilers, assured of their 13th consecutive 20-win season and one game behind Lake Superior for first place overall in the GLIAC, can clinch a share of the division title on Saturday when they battle Malone (14-10, 12-8) on senior day in a 3 p.m. game at Croy Gymnasium.
“It feels great to win this game. We needed it for the GLIAC and the region,” Kahlig said. “Now, we have to get ready for Saturday. If we win out, maybe we’ll get a chance to host the GLIAC tournament. That would be special.”
findlay (20-4, 16-4 gliac)
Heagen 3-8 0-2 7, Kahlig 18-27 1-4 42, Frilling 1-3 0-2 2, Baity 3-7 7-10 14, Kaufman 4-7 0-0 8, Gardner 1-1 0-0 2, Samsel 1-1 0-0 3, Smith 0-1 0-0 0, Staley 0-1 0-0 0; Stern-Tucker 0-0 0-0 0, Jones 0-1 2-2 2. TOTALS: 31-57 10-20–82.
Walsh (19-4, 15-4)
Beard 0-1 0-0 0, Copeland 7-11 3-8 17, DuPont 6-12 0-0 15, Hardin 3-6 0-0 8, Vucic 6-10 0-1 16, Carter 1-3 0-0 3, Montgomery 6-9 4-7 16, Fletcher 3-5 0-0 6, Campbell 0-1 0-0 0. TOTALS: 32-58 7-16–81.
3-Point GOALS: Findlay 10-21 (Kahlig 5-11, Kaufman 2-4, Heagan 1-4, Smith 1-1, Samsel 1-1); Walsh 10-22 (Vucuc 4-5, DuPont 3-6, Hardin 2-4, Carter 1-2, Montgomery 0-3, Fletcher 0-1, Campbell 0-1).
rebounds: Findlay 35 (Heagen & Baity 7); Walsh 28 (Vucic 9).
ASSISTS: Findlay 9 (Heagen 3); DuPont 10).
STEALS: Findlay 1(Frilling); Walsh 3 (Copeland, DuPont & Hardin).
BLOCKS: Findlay 0, Walsh 2 (Copeland 2).
TURNOVERS: Findlay 6, Walsh 4.
TOTAL FOULS: Findlay 13, Walsh 20.
FOULED OUT: Walsh, Copeland.
HALFTIME: Walsh, 38-37.