Findlay knocks off Illinois-Springfield in game one
By Kevin Schrock
The University of Illinois-Springfield learned that playing basketball in Croy Gymnasium could be one of the toughest tasks in all of division two basketball. On Saturday, the Oilers took an early lead and never looked back.
It was senior Ricardo Smith taking control of the game early. He rattled off nine straight Findlay points to propel the Oilers on a 17-2 run that gave them plenty of cushion early on. The in-region opponent never got it closer than 13 points and the Oilers earned a dominating 81-67 victory.
“Being a senior I want to win every game this year,” said Smith. “I want to go out with a bang, especially on the home floor to make these fans proud. They come out and support us each and every home game so all we can do is leave it out there on the floor.”
Smith finished with 13 points and five rebounds after never cracking double digits a season ago. He also buried a three in the season opener that matches his lone three he hit a season ago.
“I give Ricardo a lot of credit because he didn’t play a lot last year or have the kind of season he wanted to have, but he didn’t let that change his approach,” said Findlay coach Charlie Ernst. “He was a good spark early and is going to be an important guy. Any scoring we get is a bonus.”
By halftime the Oilers had built a 45-28 lead behind 11 points each from Smith and Taren Sullivan.
“Our guys came out in the first half and kind of set the tone,” said Ernst. “We got a lead early and they made a couple runs but you expect that because they have good players.”
Still, for every run the Prairie Stars made, the Oilers were there to answer with a big play of their own. The depth and maturity that the Oilers brought with them was encouraging.
“Different nights it’s going to be a different guy performing on the offensive end,” added Smith. “Fortunately tonight was my night but you know every other night it’s going to be a different guy. We have a lot of great players that can score the ball and we’re going to share the ball every night no matter what.”
The only point of concern for the Oilers might have been their sub-par shooting from outside. Still, for Findlay to go 9-30 from beyond the arc and still put up 81 points may be as much of an encouragement as a discouragement.
“We shot the ball really well in the preseason and really didn’t have a good shooting night but that’s the maturity and that’s how far we’ve come as a team,” said Ernst. “Two years ago if we would have gone 9-30 we would have had a hard time running away from anyone because our balance wasn’t great.”
Sullivan ended up leading the way for the Oilers with 16 points and eight rebounds. He was one of three Oilers in double figure point totals.
Austin Gardner just missed a double double with nine assists and eight points to compliment his five rebounds. Martyce Kimbrough finished with 14 points.