Thursday, November 15, 2012College Basketball: Falk-led West Liberty State rolls Findlay
If there was one thing the University of Findlay men's basketball team could not afford to do against West Liberty State University Wednesday night, it was get caught up playing the Hilltoppers' fast-paced style of hoops.
For the first 12 minutes of the game, the No. 8 Oilers were fine against the top-ranked NCAA Division II team in the nation, trailing by just five points in an intense back-and-forth tilt.
But over the final eight minutes of the half, everything changed. The Oilers started missing shots and turning the ball over against an aggressive press.
By halftime, the Oilers were down 16 and they never recovered in a 90-74 season-opening loss at sold-out Croy Gymnasium.
"We got away from what we were supposed to be doing," senior guard Aaron Robinson said. "We fell into their game plan, started playing fast and turned the ball over too much. They got a lot of points off our turnovers."
WLSU (3-0), which lost 84-80 in overtime to UF a year ago in West Virginia, ended the night scoring 24 points off of 22 Findlay turnovers. The Hilltoppers also dominated in the paint by outscoring the Oilers 54-30 as they capitalized on easy baskets in transition.
"We hung right with them early, but when the shots aren't falling and the team you are playing is playing at a fast-paced tempo, you have to make shots or they will run the score up," senior forward Brad Piehl said. "They sped us up and we should have done a better job of taking care of the ball."
The Hilltoppers, who have appeared in the last two Elite Eight tournaments, played hard for 40 minutes on a night when they shot 49.3 percent (35-of-71) from the floor and got a big lift from former Upper Sandusky standout Alex Falk, who poured in 37 points.
WLSU failed to hit the century mark for the first time this season and only made five treys, a low number for a team that typically hits 10 or more 3-pointers in a game. In the end, it didn't matter.
"Those guys take playing hard to another level," UF head coach Charlie Ernst said. "They milk every ounce of energy out of their players and you have to give them tremendous credit. They took us to school."
Falk did most of the damage, dropping in 19 of his points in the first half. He is the heart and soul of the Hilltoppers and tallied five steals to fuel the defensive effort. He was thrilled about the opportunity to return to the area for a showdown of top 10 teams.
"I have been looking forward to this game for over a year. It's great being able to play close to home," Falk said. "Findlay has a very good basketball team with a lot of potential. We thought it would be close until the end, but we were fortunate to hit our shots and get them out of a groove with our pressure."
Falk also showed how classy of a player he is. Late in the game, Robinson went to the floor with cramps in his leg and Falk immediately went over to help stretch his leg out.
"I've had my fair share of cramps. I know how painful they can be," Falk said. "I felt like someone needed to help him out."
The energy and intensity was thick enough to cut with a knife prior to tip-off. The crowd roared and music boomed through the gym as the UF lineup was announced during a spotlight introduction.
The Oilers fed off of that energy early as Greg Kahlig scored twice on layups and drilled a short jumper to give UF a 6-3 advantage.
A 3-pointer by Dylan Kaufman gave the Oilers their final lead of the night at 11-10 before the Hilltoppers started cranking up the intensity on defense.
Ahead 21-16, the Hilltoppers closed the half on an 18-7 run to take a 39-23 lead into halftime.
"I felt like we were stuck offensively and we stood around too much," Ernst said. "We didn't wear them out by running our offense so they had the energy to defend us in the full court. They played their game."
UF offered up a glimmer of hope early in the second half, trimming the WLSU advantage to 39-28 as Jake Heagen nailed a 3-pointer and Kahlig knocked down a jumper.
But the Hilltoppers never took their foot off the gas pedal and led by as many as 28 in the second half.
UF shot 44.6 percent (25-of-56) from the field and got 15 points from Piehl. Kahlig clicked for 14 points and Robinson pumped in 12 to go along with eight rebounds.
"The biggest thing is that we never chipped away at the lead," Piehl said. "You can't trade buckets against a team like this, especially when you are already down."
With Cedarville coming to town for a 3 p.m. nonconference game on Saturday, the Oilers have little time to dwell on a loss Ernst urged his players to forget as soon they walk out of the locker room.
Robinson took those words to heart even after a rare loss at home. UF has only lost four times here since the 2003-04 season.
"We know we are a better team than this and we have to put this game behind us," Robinson said. "We have a full schedule ahead of us.
"We need to get better and get ready to play on Saturday."
west liberty state (3-0)
Morrow 1-6 1-2 3, Hausfeld 4-8 0-0 10, Hester 7-10 2-4 16, Falk 13-19 8-10 37, Harris 3-12 2-2 8, Brown 0-3 0-0 0, Bonifant 3-4 0-0 6, Dyer 2-2 1-2 5, Goodwin 2-6 1-2 5. TOTALS: 35-71 15-22--90.
Heagan 2-5 4-7 9, Kahlig 6-10 1-1 14, Piehl 6-8 3-3 15, Samsel 1-6 1-2 4, Robinson 3-7 4-4 12, Brown 0-0 0-0 0, Baity 1-1 1-1 3, Baker 0-0 0-0 0, Smith 2-6 0-0 5, Baldwin 0-0 0-0 0, Kaufman 2-6 3-3 8, Brencans 0-1 0-0 0, Kohls 0-0 0-0 0, Frilling 2-6 0-2 4. TOTALS: 25-56 17-23--74.
HALFTIME: West Liberty State, 39-23.
3-Point GOALS: West Liberty State (Falk 3-4, Hausfeld 2-5, Brown 0-1, Bonifant 0-1, Goodwin 0-1, Harris 0-2, Morrow 0-3) 5-17; Findlay (Robinson 2-5, Heagen 1-3, Kahlig 1-3, Smith 1-3, Kaufman 1-3, Samsel 1-6) 7-23.
rebounds: West Liberty State 36 (Hester 13); Findlay 38 (Robinson 8, Heagen 5). ASSISTS: West Liberty State 21 (Harris 9); Findlay 14 (Samsel 4). STEALS: West Liberty State 18 (Falk 5); Findlay 5. BLOCKS: West Liberty State 1, Findlay 3.
TURNOVERS: West Liberty State 8, Findlay 22. TOTAL FOULS: West Liberty State 22, Findlay 18. FOULED OUT: None.
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