The Tony DeCarlo Varsity Center hosted a foul frenzy on Saturday, Feb. 8, and John Carroll University was the beneficiary. Despite giving Capital University a round-trip pass to the charity stripe for the night, JCU’s lockdown defense allowed the host Blue Streaks to hold on for a tight 85-80 win over the Crusaders.
The Crusaders marched their way to the free throw line 40 times compared to JCU’s 28 over the course of the game.
Fortunately for the Blue Streaks, Capital had an abysmal night shooting from the line, knocking down only 60 percent of their attempts. Free throws have been the thorn in JCU’s side all season, but the Blue Streaks stepped up and knocked down 75 percent of their attempts.
This advantage made all the difference, especially in a close contest that came down to the final minutes.
The Blue Streaks continued using their home court advantage as they have done all season early on, jumping out to a 10-5 lead after a pair of 3-pointers from sophomore Danny Wallack and junior David Hendrickson at the 16:36 mark.
Capital, however, had sharp shooters of its own, fighting its way back throughout the first half.
Using a wealth of shots from the charity stripe, Capital climbed within six points of the lead with 8:47 to go in the first half as Jared Cashen knocked in a pair to make the score 26-20. Cashen finished the game with 10 points for the Crusaders off the bench.
Although JCU entered halftime with a comfortable 49-37 lead, the Crusaders’ free throw shots allowed them to slowly climb back within range of the Blue Streaks. Capital’s Curt Geise led the charge, knocking down a 3-pointer at 11:39 to make it 63-58. Geise continued to score clutch points for the Crusaders in the second half and finished 8-for-8 at the free throw line with a game-high 19 points.
To make the matter worse, JCU junior Jake Hollinger fouled out with 4:08 left in the second half. With Capital breathing down JCU’s neck, the Crusaders clawed back to within three, 78-75.
It was the play of JCU’s underclassmen that made the difference in the closing minutes. Sophomore Simon Kucharewicz and freshman David Linane teamed up for a Kucharewicz layup at 3:13 to extend the lead 80-76.
From there on out, the Blue Streaks were all about defense. Freshman Doug Caputo, who owned the boards for most of the night, showed up in the biggest way possible with huge blocked shots down the stretch and a trip to the free throw line that closed the game.
“We played full court defense really well, making Capital turn the ball over a lot and causing a few five second calls on inbounds plays,” Caputo said. “We have great team chemistry and we know how each other play by now, so our offense just comes with the flow now.”
Geise put JCU on the brink with a late layup, but a pair of Caputo free throws with 37 seconds left to play gave the Blue Streaks a decisive lead. Caputo finished the game with seven points, three blocks and a team-high eight rebounds.
“We compete a lot in practice against each other and I feel that we tend to carry that out onto the floor a lot, even though the refs did not help us much,” said Caputo. “I feel that we have a lot of upside as a team. We all play well together and get along well. If we just keeping working our hardest and play as we are capable, this team can accomplish a lot.”
JCU’s 85-80 victory raised their record to 14-7, including an 8-6 mark in Ohio Athletic Conference play.