Local Sports

Friday, January 04, 2013

GLIAC Basketball: Smith-led Oilers net 64-56 win


UNIVERSITY CENTER, Mich. -- Jack Smith slashed into the lane and drove hard to the basket. As he started rising up for the layup, he was fouled and knocked to the floor.

The pressure was on for the University of Findlay forward to deliver in a game where Saginaw Valley State refused to go away without a fight.

Smith calmly hit two free throws, pushing the No. 24 Oilers' lead to seven, and he hit a couple of more clutch shots from the line after pulling down a rebound in the final minute as UF hung on for a 64-56 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference win over the Cardinals Thursday night at the Ryder Center.

Smith doesn't start, but his value off the bench cannot be underestimated.

On this night, in a rugged conference road game, the veteran poured in 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds as UF nailed down a victory in a conference where road wins never come easy.

"I knew this game was going to come down to the final minutes and the ball was rolling my way," Smith said. "I just did what I had to do to help the team."

That included hitting two free throws with the Oilers (9-2, 6-1 GLIAC) clinging to a 58-53 lead and finishing 6-of-8 from the line.

Moments later, he pulled down a rebound after Chris Webb, the Cardinals' leading scorer at 18.4 points per outing, watched his layup roll off the rim. Smith was fouled on the rebound and knocked down another two free throws.

"They were big-time free throws and I concentrated on making them," Smith said. "I wanted to help us get this win badly."

Smith was called upon to play almost the entire second half without Jake Heagen. UF's starting power forward was knocked out of the game when he suffered a cut above his eye while driving into the lane less than four minutes into the second period.

Blood poured from his cut as he sat on the bench and he never returned, but Smith took over as the Oilers never missed a beat en route to their fifth consecutive win.

"I have a lot of confidence in Jack, and with Jake hurt, fortunately we have the best back-up at the four to come in," UF head coach Charlie Ernst said. "We didn't miss a lot."

The Cardinals (6-4, 3-3) were riding a two-game win streak and if they were going to have any chance at pulling off the upset, Webb and Brett Beland would have to step up.

UF refused to let it happen. Senior guard Aaron Robinson triggering a tenacious defensive effort that provided the Oilers with a lot of energy in a gym that featured less than 100 fans.

Robinson was draped all over Webb, who struggled with 13 points on 5-of-17 shooting and pulled down five rebounds.

Beland, who also had to deal with Robinson at times, wasn't much better, going 1-of-9 from beyond the arc, and scoring 12 points.

"Being from Dayton, I feel like I've gone up against a lot of good players in the summer, and I just come out with a lot of confidence in every game," Robinson said.

It worked as UF's aggressive zone kept the Cardinals off balance. SVSU shot 39.3 percent (24-of-61) from the field and was held to 70 points or less for the ninth time.

The Oilers, trailing 5-4, put together an 11-0 run that ended with Smith knocking down a 3-pointer for a 15-5 lead. Mark Frilling provided a lift off the bench, scoring on three consecutive layups, including a reverse.

The Oilers led 28-18 at haftime and could have had a bigger lead had they not gotten careless with the ball. UF finished with 22 turnovers and the Cardinals scored 21 points off those miscues.

"I'm not going to get greedy on the road. A 10-point lead at halftime in this conference, I'll take it any day," Ernst said.

But UF was unable to build on that lead in the second half as the Cardinals continued to capitalize on turnovers and started to benefit from big shots by Webb and Beland.

The pace of the game picked up late in the half, and Webb injected a surge of energy when he drove in for a layup that trimmed the Oilers' lead to 56-51 with 2:02 to go.

The Oilers never let the Cardinals get closer than five points, coming up with big plays on defense, limiting SVSU to one-shot possessions. The Oilers held a 38-26 edge on the boards.

"We had a couple of breakdowns on offense, but it doesn't matter what happens on offense as long as we continue to bring it on defense," Robinson said.

Ernst was not surprised by SVSU's effort, but he was proud of how his team responded under pressure. The Oilers shot 52.3 percent (23-of-44) from the field and got 16 points from senior forward Brad Piehl.

Seven Oilers scored at least six points and UF owned a 28-9 advantage in bench points.

"Give Saginaw credit," Ernst said. "They scrapped and clawed to stay in the game. We made just enough plays down the stretch to get out of here with a win."

And now it's on to Wayne State Saturday in Detroit. The Oilers and Warriors will tangle ina 1 p.m. battle for first place in the conference. WSU (7-2, 6-0) knocked off Hillsdale 71-57 on Thursday night.

FINDLAY (9-2, 6-1)

Heagan 0-2 1-2 1, Kahlig 2-7 3-4 7, Piehl 7-8 1-1 16, Samsel 2-6 0-0 6, Robinson 2-5 1-2 6, Baity 3-3 1-2 7, Smith 3-5 6-8 13, Kaufman 1-4 0-0 2, Frilling 3-4 0-0 6. TOTALS: 23-44 13-19--64.

saginaw valley state (5-4, 3-3)

Clark 4-5 1-2 9, Thames 1-4 1-2 3, Webb 5-17 2-3 13, Smith 5-6 0-0 10, Beland 5-17 1-2 12, Adams 1-1 0-0 2, Bozeman 1-3 0-0 2, Beckwith 0-0 0-0 0, Johnson 2-7 0-0 5, Burgess 0-0 0-2 0, Schaaf 0-1 0-0 0. TOTALS: 24-61 5-11--56.

HALFTIME: Findlay, 28-18.

3-Point GOALS: Findlay 5-13 (Samsel 2-5, Piehl 1-1, Smith 1-1, Robinson 1-3, Kahlig 0-1, Kaufman 0-2); Saginaw Valley State 3-17 (Johnson 1-3, Webb 1-4, Beland 1-9, Bozeman 0-1).

rebounds: Findlay 38 (Smith 9, Heagen 6); Saginaw Valley State 26 (Clark 7). ASSISTS: Findlay 9 (Kahlig 4); Saginaw Valley State 14 (Smith 6, Beland 4). STEALS: Findlay 7 (Samsel & Baity 2); Saginaw Valley State 11 (Beland 4, Clark 3). BLOCKS: Findlay 1, Saginaw Valley State 1.

TURNOVERS: Findlay 22, Saginaw Valley State 11. TOTAL FOULS: Findlay 13, Saginaw Valley State 17. FOULED OUT: None.

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