It would be easy to argue that John Carroll University men’s basketball plays according to the weather. They started the season off hot, but have shot as cold as the weather lately.
Unfortunately, January continues to be a frigid month for the Blue and Gold, as they dropped another Ohio Athletic Conference game to Ohio Northern University on Saturday, Jan. 26, losing by a score of 97-80.
The Blue Streaks (11-6, 5-5 OAC) came into the game with momentum from a recent win over Otterbein University and were ready to continue their fight to stay in contention in the OAC. Standing in their way were the hard-nosed Polar Bears (9-8, 5-5 OAC) who were hanging on by a thread themselves.
The two teams met earlier in the season for a game that was largely controlled by JCU. The Blue Streaks scored with ease and made ONU look like teddy bears on offense, but things would not be so easy this time around.
Similar to their previous January games, JCU struggled shooting from the start. ONU took a quick 15-6 lead on senior guard Branden Rushton’s jumper at 14:33 in the first half. The Polar Bears continued to make it rain with shots from everywhere on the court. They led by as much as 22, 37-15, at 7:49 after another Rushton field goal. Rushton finished the game with 12 points.
ONU’s dominance in shooting was due largely in part to a spectacular rebounding effort, as the Polar Bears outrebounded the Blue Streaks 24-14 in the first half. Heading into halftime, ONU held a comfortable 46-28 lead.
This was an extremely uncharacteristic first half for a Blue Streaks team that began the season averaging nearly 90 points per game.
JCU continued to experience many of the same problems in the second half. For every time the Blue Streaks found the bottom of the basket, ONU would find it twice. Head coach Mike Moran often uses full lineup changes to shake the opposing team, but even JCU’s normally high scoring bench couldn’t turn the tides. Even with a hard-fought second half from sophomore guard Joey Vuyancih, who scored 14 of his 18 points in the second stanza, the Blue Streaks could not muster up any meaningful momentum.
Sophomore forward Simon Kucharewicz spoke after the game of the importance of his team finding its flow on offense.
“We just need to get back to the way we were playing, that’s our style and the most successful for us,” said Kucharewicz.
ONU finished the game shooting 51.6 percent from the floor and kept the Blue Streaks from ever coming within 10 points. ONU’s freshman point guard Devon Allen led the Polar Bears with a game-high 21 points off the bench.
“We still have games to play,” Kucharewicz said. “We just have to stay focused and bounce back … We’re a good team – we know that. We could compete with every team in the OAC.”
With another OAC loss, the Blue Streaks need to win the remainder of their games to stay in contention.
“To win the remainder of the season, we have to just come ready to play and out hustle teams,” junior guard Danny Wallack said. “In every game we lost this year we were out-hustled. The OAC is a tough league. It is difficult to go on the road and win games, but we just did not come ready to outperform the opponent today.”