The learning process has been far from easy for the young John Carroll men’s basketball team. On Saturday, Jan. 26, clutch plays from a group of underclassmen helped the team avoid what could have been their most embarrassing loss of the season.
Sophomore Regan Sweeney scored 12 points and was perfect from the free throw line, as the Blue Streaks outlasted the Muskingum Fighting Muskies, 78-64, in New Concord, Ohio.
Senior Kyle Hubbard contributed 18 points for the Blue Streaks, but it was the John Carroll bench that made the clutch plays down the stretch.
Coach Mike Moran pulled his starters just four minutes into the game, setting the stage for the bench to make an impact. Neither team was able to grab hold of momentum until midway through the first half, when John Carroll held a 15-12 lead.
From that point, John Carroll would go on two different 7-2 runs to gradually gain control. They were able to slowly stabilize the game through clutch 3-pointers by Kyle Pisco and the post play of Hubbard once the starters re-entered the game.
Pisco, a freshman transfer, made the most of his time on the floor. Previously, he had struggled to find consistency in sporadic playing time.
“Kyle’s grown extremely fast this year,” said Ryan Angers, Pisco’s high school teammate at St. Edward High School in Lakewood. “I think he came into a tough spot at first, but he’s handled it really well and has become one of our best shooters.”
Muskingum’s chances evaporated in the second half, as a nine-point halftime lead for John Carroll swelled to 13 just four minutes into the second half.
Logan Kimble led the effort for Muskingum (1-18, 0-12) with 14 points and five rebounds, but four personal fouls kept him from cutting any further into the deficit. The Blue Streaks would seal the victory by hitting all six of their free throws in the final minute.
It was a much-needed road win for the Blue Streaks, who have struggled to a 3-4 record away from the Tony DeCarlo Varsity Center. The victory meant much more to Angers, who was one of three current Blue Streaks who took part in John Carroll’s first loss to Muskingum in six years last January.
Angers said he and Moran made sure the team knew of the history behind the matchup. “I just told the guys that this is a big game,” he remarked. “I said, ‘The stands are filled, so let’s give them a show.’”
With the win, the Blue Streaks improved to 9-9 overall and 6-6 in the OAC. The squad sits at fifth place in the OAC with six regular season contests remaining.
The next match for JCU will be a home game on Wednesday, Jan. 30 against the Heidelberg Student Princes, who enter the contest with a 9-10 record (4-8 in the OAC).
Editor’s Note: For results, box scores, game stories and more from last night’s OAC game between the Blue Streaks and Heidelberg, please go to www.jcusports.com.