It’s always a struggle for the Blue Streaks to make the four-hour trip to Wilmington College. However, John Carroll University men’s basketball proved that with a high shooting percentage, anything is possible. Shooting nearly 57 percent as a team, the Blue Streaks defeated the Fightin’ Quakers, 88-78, on Saturday, Jan. 24.
Scoring was spread evenly across the first and second platoons. Junior Danny Wallack contributed a season-high 17 points, including three 3-pointers. Fellow junior Will Starks continued his shooting streak with 14 points. Junior Ryan Farragher added 11, while sophomores Doug Caputo and David Linane chipped in 10. Freshman Tony Vuyancih rounded out Blue Streaks in double figures with 10 of his own. The Blue Streaks held the lead for the entire game.
While scoring was a huge part of the win, the JCU defense arguably propelled the offense. Wilmington shot only 34 percent from the field. This marked the fourth time in a row JCU held the opposing team to under 40 percent shooting from the floor.
Rebounding also proved critical, as JCU outrebounded Wilmington, 43-30. Senior Jake Hollinger and Caputo each pulled down seven boards, while senior David Hendrickson, Starks and Linane each added four.
The Blue Streaks came ready to play on Saturday, as they catapulted to an 8-0 lead after just over two and a half minutes of play. The second platoon put eight more points on the board before Hollinger entered the game and kept the JCU momentum going with a fast break dunk.
Wilmington would not go down quietly, as the hosts battled back to tie the game at 20 with 8:26 remaining. A defensive standoff continued between the two teams until Farragher came in and scored six points in the final minutes of the half, helping the Blue Streaks head into the locker room with a 38-32 lead.
The teams were evenly matched at the start of the second half until Wilmington cut JCU’s lead to one after a series of layups and free throws. JCU’s second platoon then subbed in, and led by a quick five points from Starks, propelled to an 8-point lead with just under 12 minutes left to play.
When asked about his recent hot streak, Starks said, “I’ve worked hard all year and the confidence that I’ve gained from that as well as the confidence that my teammates have in me has propelled me to really be comfortable and aggressive on the court.”
Wallack stepped up in the final minutes, hitting a fast break three to give the Blue Streaks a 10-point lead, 72-62, with 7:46 remaining. His next three would come with 3:57 remaining to push JCU’s lead to 11, followed by a layup that put the Blue Streaks up, 82-69. In the final minute, Wallack hit four critical free throws, stifling the comeback the Fightin’ Quakers were facilitating.
JCU shot 52 percent from the field during the first half, and a whopping 61.5 percent during the second, including five 3-pointers.
“To win an OAC championship, you have to bring everything together at the right time,” Wallack said. “It’s a tough league, so it is important to bring your A-game every single night no matter who the opponent is.”
JCU is now 12-4 overall and 8-2 in the Ohio Athletic Conference.
Editor’s Note: The John Carroll University men’s basketball team hosted Heidelberg University for another OAC battle on Wednesday, Jan. 28. Head to jcusports.com for a full recap and box score.