One year ago, the John Carroll University men’s basketball team knocked off Marietta College, the previous top dog in the Ohio Athletic Conference, at home in a thrilling win.
On Saturday, Feb. 13, the opposite outcome happened.
Playing in a hostile environment on the road, the No. 3 Blue Streaks succumbed to the No. 8 Pioneers in a physical battle, 86-81.
The Blue Streaks often fell behind, tying the game seven times, but could not complete the comeback effort in the final minute, to the delight of a capacity crowd at the Ban Johnson Arena in Marietta, Ohio.
JCU falls to 21-2, 14-2 in OAC play following its second consecutive loss, the first to Baldwin Wallace University at home on Wednesday, Feb. 10.
A stingy JCU defense that held Marietta to just 8-of-34 (23.5 percent) from behind the arc, the Blue Streaks hung in the game until the waning moments. A 3-pointer by senior Danny Wallack with 2:21 narrowed the Marietta lead to just three, 79-76.
Following the make, Marietta called a timeout and adjusted its strategy. Instead of opting for an outside shot, the Pioneers looked inside and found freshman AJ Edwards. The junior used an opening to kiss a shot off the glass and extend the lead to five.
The teams traded missed shots before senior Simon Kucharewicz made a layup for JCU with 1:19 remaining to bring the game within one possession. Following a JCU timeout, Edwards again used his size inside to score, drawing a foul on Kucharewicz in the process. Edwards completed the three-point play, making the score 84-78 with 54 seconds left.
Then, the Blue Streaks suddenly went cold.
The Blue and Gold missed six shots in the 45 seconds before sophomore Antonio Vuyancih finally buried a trey from the corner. Trailing by three with nine seconds left, the Blue Streaks were forced to foul on the inbound. Unfortunately, Dillon Young buried both of his free throws, ending the game for JCU.
Wallack led all JCU scorers with 20 points. Vuyancih added 16 for the Blue Streaks, shooting 5-of-11 from the field and 4-of-4 from behind the arc. Kucharewicz notched a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out late in the second half.
The Pioneers enjoyed advantages in rebounds, 51-50, and points in the paint, 36-24. Edwards led all scorers with 21 points. Luis Garcia added 19 points for the Pioneers.
Despite the loss, the Blue Streaks have also clinched the No. 2 seed in the OAC Tournament.
Editor’s Note: The John Carroll University men’s basketball team returned to action on Wednesday, Feb. 17 against the University of Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio. Head to jcusports.com for a full game recap and box score.