Manno’s hot hand dooms Dragons

Five times in the first half, Tiffin University defenders lost Hillsdale guard Anthony Manno on the wing, leaving him open for a 3-pointer.

Five times the junior made them pay, drilling his shots and putting the Dragons further and further behind.

It wasn’t just Manno. Hillsdale went 9 of 11 in 3-point shooting over the game’s first 20 minutes. It was the third-consecutive game in which TU allowed an opponent to shoot better than 70 percent from 3-point range in the first half.

Not surprisingly, the Dragons have lost all three games. They lost Thursday, 96-78.

“It almost looks like we need to start over defensively,” TU coach John Hill said after his team fell to 5-9, 2-7 in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. “We get beat on the baseline. We know who we have to stop on the 3-point line, and we don’t run back hard enough to match.”

Meanwhile, Tiffin’s offense couldn’t keep up with the Chargers, and the game seemed about over with seven minutes before the break. And there was no big comeback.

The Dragons shot just 12 of 34 (35 percent) in the first half, compared to 65 percent (17 of 26) by Hillsdale.

“Our offense has looked so poor at times,” Hill said.

Hillsdale coach John Tharp can relate. The Chargers won the division last season, but have had an uneven start in the league. The win made them 9-4, 5-4 in the conference. Hillsdale was coming off a 48-41 loss to Saginaw Valley State Saturday, a team TU beat earlier this season.

“We were awful last week,” Tharp said. “It was a pride issue for our kids.”

Tiffin started the game solid on offense and defense. Mike Boan sandwiched two baskets between a Joe Graessle jumper, and TU had the Chargers in a 6-0 hole.

The Chargers rallied, but the game remained close until the Chargers used a 16-2 run, taking a 31-18 lead and never looking back. Manno made treys on three consecutive possessions during the stretch, and Hillsdale also got a pair of straight away 3’s from Tim Dezelski. Hilldale led by as many as 19 in the half, and led 49-32 at the break.

Manno, who didn’t even start, finished with 19 points.

“We’ve been a mess offensively,” Tharp said. “Manno gave us a tremendous amount of confidence as a team.”

So did Drezelski, who finished with 24 points and seven rebounds.

“Drezelski had a heck of a game,” Hill said. “What more can you ask for?”

It wasn’t just 3’s that burned TU in the first half. It also was depth. Hillsdale’s bench out scored TU 24-0 over the first 20 minutes. Boan and Graessle, both starters, combined for 26 of their team’s 32 points.

For the game, Graessle finished with a game-high 26 points, with Boan contributing 18 points. Eric Roby had seven points and a team-best six rebounds.

Hillsdale finished with four players scoring in double figures.

Up next for the Dragons is a trip Saturday to Findlay. The Oilers demolished Ohio Dominican, 97-58 Thursday.

“It’s not about Findlay, it’s about 14 more games,” Hill said.