John Carroll shrugs off slow-starting Heidelberg

PHOTO BY STEVE WILLIAMS Heidelberg's Malik Quisenberry (middle) fights for a rebound over the shoulder of John Carroll's Simon Kucharewicz as Prince Benson and Andrew Grothouse (far left) stay close to the action Wednesday night in Tiffin.

Heidelberg plays fast, but John Carroll plays even faster up and down the court.

Off makes, the Blue Streaks push the ball up the floor to beat the defense. On defense, they press. They play tight man-to-man defense for 40 minutes face-guarding your best player. And longtime coach Mike Moran is as intense on the bench as his players.

Between the line changes of players every four or five minutes, are players that give all they have and it showed Wednesday night.

The Blue Streaks blitzed Heidelberg right out of the gate, but HU responded and made things interesting in the second half.

However, John Carroll always was a step ahead in an 88-75 Ohio Athletic Conference victory.

“Andy’s (Bucheit) a young coach and he did a good job with adjustments in the second half and we had a problem with them tonight,” Moran said as his team improved to 17-6 and 14-3 in the OAC. “They did a great job adjustment-wise and it had us back pedaling for most of that second half. We hit some shots to give us a cushion to close it out.

“We knew it would be tough, though. They had a really good win at Mount Union this past weekend. It’s a good program and there is so much parity in the game. You couldn’t see too much of a difference between his squad and ours. We probably got out of the blocks a little quicker. That may have been the only difference tonight.”

John Carroll went right at Heidelberg (10-14, 6-11) to begin the game defensively, causing eight miscues in the first 10 minutes of the game, which led to several easy baskets for the Blue Streaks.

They raced out to an 8-0 lead three minutes into the contest and led 25-8 midway through. HU cut the lead to 31-19 on a Prince Benson 3-pointer, but John Carroll raised the lead to 40-21 with 4:13 left in the first half.

The ‘Berg ended the half well, going on an 11-5 run to trail 45-32 at the break.

“John Carroll is really good and well coached. I don’t know what else we have to do to check in at the beginning of a game,” HU coach Andy Bucheit said. “It’s the same stuff, but a different day. Our guys need to see if they have a pulse sometimes because we just decide not to show up. We’ve done it time in and time out this year. It’s mind blowing.

“We show up at Mount Union and play 40 minutes. We didn’t execute some stuff, but we just don’t even show up (tonight). You could see how we weren’t executing and our cutting to get open in their press, transition defense and having mistakes and giving them easy baskets. But then all of a sudden, we get it going and we start playing like we are capable of playing. We play them fairly even the rest of the way. When you take yourself out of the game for the first 13 or so minutes against a good team, it’s tough to come back from that.”

John Carroll maintained a double-digit lead until the 14 minute mark when The ‘Berg ran off eight straight points on 3-pointer from Kiere Bennie and DeAvery Collins and a layup from Myron Prewitt to cut the Blue Streaks’ lead to 63-58 with 12:11 remaining.

But as soon as John Carroll was challenged, it responded with an 8-0 run fueled by a pair of HU turnovers in the backcourt that led to layups. HU was within 10 points for much of the rest of the second half, but couldn’t slow down John Carroll’s offense and execution against Heidelberg’s defensive pressure.

“We didn’t do a good enough job getting back in transition and our wings were a problem,” Bucheit said. “We had a plan to stop (David) Linane, to slow him down because he is the one who initiates almost all of their offense and gets the ball off the inbounds like a rocket shot out of a cannon. Our wings weren’t getting back because we had him slowed down, but he just threw the ball overtop to someone open ahead.

“When we did get back, they either turned the ball over or took a tough shot, which they weren’t used to getting. We just didn’t execute our defensive game plan enough tonight to slow them down enough.”

The Blue Streaks got plenty of good looks because of their transition offense as they shot 44.6 percent (29 of 65) from the floor, compared to 38.4 percent (28 of 73) by Heidelberg, who settled for jumpers early in the contest.

Tim Ludlow led the Blue Streaks with 21 points and four steals, while Linane added 15 points and four steals, Simon Kucharewicz recorded 11 points and 12 rebounds and John Cirillo ended with nine points and 10 boards. John Carroll did a good job against HU on the glass, outrebounding it 47-37.

“We give a lot of credit to Tim Ludlow tonight because we usually get about half of that production from Timmy as he plays so hard,” Moran said. “I thought he was the game-changer for us. When you get a kid that does that, it kind of sparks everybody else out there, but you take away his play tonight and we are still playing out here.

“After last weekend, they rebounded Mount Union 52-28 and we said, ‘Oh my goodness.’ I haven’t seen a differential like that in a long time. Our kids stepped up to the plate there, but overall it was just a really good game. I told some of the coaching staff that it’s a good thing I’m retiring so I don’t have to see those guys again every year.”

Bennie tallied 19 points, nine rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals for HU, while Alex Arellano had 14 points and four boards, Mike Mason added 10 points and six rebounds and Collins finished with 10 points. Prewitt had four blocks for the Student Princes.

“Bennie played well tonight and some of our other upperclassmen didn’t step up today,” Bucheit said. “That was tough for us and it wasn’t for a lack of effort from those guys, but the shots just weren’t falling. We can’t fault those guys there, but we need them to step up in games like this.

“Alex really stepped in and played well. It’s nice to see some of the things he’s able to do as a freshmen at his position and produce. He has a bright future here. He had back surgery in the summer, so he couldn’t work on his game at all, so to step in now and produce like he is is really good and we are really excited about him.”