Despite the rivalry that has formed between these two high-energy basketball programs, the John Carroll University Blue Streaks have managed to hold all the cards over Capital University for more than two calendar years.
Saturday night’s contest in Bexley, Ohio was much of the same – led by a John Carroll and Ohio Athletic Conference record-breaking nine three-pointers by junior guard Michael Hartnett.
John Carroll overcame a six-point halftime deficit in a 93-87 victory to open conference play.
The last four regular season championships in the Ohio Athletic Conference have been nabbed by either Capital or John Carroll.
With a “three-peat” in mind, the back-to-back regular season champion Blue Streaks knew one of their toughest games of the year would come early in the schedule.
JCU had won four of the last seven matchups against Capital and had not lost to the Crusaders since Dec. 13, 2008.
Coming off of a tough loss to Olivet College last weekend, John Carroll needed a “rebound” win on the road to make an early statement in the conference.
Coach Moran’s squad played a very competitive first half, leading by as many as seven points (with 7:10 to play).
However, Capital’s Scott Robertson scored 16 first half points, assisting the Crusaders to a 48-42 halftime advantage.
The Blue Streaks shot 50 percent from the floor, but the red-hot home squad drained 61 percent of their first half field goals.
Aside from fouls, the halftime stat sheet seemed encouraging for John Carroll. The Crusaders also connected on 18 of 23 first half free throw attempts after John Carroll committed 16 team fouls.
The first four minutes of the second half were equally sloppy for both teams – eight total fouls were committed before John Carroll finally settled down. Capital would only step to the charity stripe three times in the second period.
All the while, junior guard Michael Hartnett was simply scintillating. After a chaotic start to the second half, Hartnett single-handedly brought the Blue Streaks back into the ball game.
Hitting from almost every spot on the floor, the sharp-shooter canned nine three-pointers. He knocked down six of his nine from downtown in the second half, finishing with 27 points.
“We put in some new plays earlier this week to get Joey [Meyer] and I some more open looks,” said Hartnett. “I think just spending some extra time in the gym shooting around really helped me.”
Capital did not make it easy for the Blue Streaks though, as the second half saw four lead changes and four ties before John Carroll took the lead for good with just over five minutes left to go in the game.
Junior guard Joey Meyer sealed the Blue Streak win with a couple of successful free throws with less than a minute to play.
“I think it’s contagious when we shoot well,” said Meyer. “ It’s a huge momentum swing when one of us hits a couple threes in a row and then we can get into our press and start causing turnovers. Thankfully we hit some shots tonight.”
Meyer also finished three of six from the three-point line on his way to a quiet 19 points.
Senior Kyle Hubbard contributed 13 points off the bench, including a perfect nine of nine from the free throw line.
The Crusaders had three players in double figures, led by senior guard D.J. Frazier who scored 25 points.
Michael Sommer hit five three-balls and finished with 19 points, while Scott Robertson, Capital’s best finisher so far this year, netted 18 points – but only two came in the second half.
John Carroll improved to 5-1 and 1-0 in the conference with the win.
The Blue Streaks were predicted to win the conference again this year, and they certainly got off on the right foot with this win on the road.
“We haven’t won here in a long time,” said assistant coach Frank O’Brien of the nightmares the team has suffered in Bexley.
“Coach Moran made a few defensive adjustments at the break and they worked well. It was definitely a team effort.”
Before Saturday, JCU had not won at Capital since Jan. 4, 2006.
The Blue Streaks and Crusaders will battle it out again on Jan. 21 in the Tony DeCarlo Varsity Center.
Next up for John Carroll are the Ohio Northern University Polar Bears at home on Saturday afternoon.