A frustrating late season 3-game losing streak nearly spoiled 21 straight wins for the John Carroll University men’s basketball team.
Then, senior Simon Kucharewicz took control.
Guided by a double-double by the Midpark High School graduate, the Blue Streaks ended the regular season with a 99-76 victory over Muskingum University on Saturday, Feb. 20 at the Tony DeCarlo Varsity Center.
Kucharewicz placed a big exclamation point on the regular season with 20 points, 13 rebounds and several monstrous dunks. The performance marked Kucharewicz’s sixth double-double of the season.
From the opening tip, JCU looked determined to regain its mojo. The Blue Streaks outscored the Fighting Muskies, 10-2, to start the game, as Kucharewicz scored the first eight points for the Blue and Gold.
Joshua Keyes and Fighting Muskies kept fighting back in the first half, making the challenge slightly more difficult for JCU. Muskingum narrowed the deficit to just three at the 15:24 mark of the first half before the Blue Streaks responded in force.
Utilizing a deeper bench, the Blue Streaks used fresh legs to open up a double-digit lead over the course of the next eight minutes.
The lead grew to a 15 points with five minutes remaining in the first, as senior Danny Wallack nailed a 3-pointer for the Blue and Gold. JCU swelled the advantage to 17 with 2:44 remaining thanks to work in the post by the squad’s big men.
However, Muskingum did not allow JCU to end its season easily. The visitors buried a trio of 3-pointers in the final 2:30 of the half, narrowing the deficit to 49-40 heading into halftime.
Coming out of halftime, the Blue Streaks returned to form. Senior Will Starks hit a jumper and Kucharewicz hit a layup in the first 15 seconds of the half before Wallack buried a trey to up the lead to 16 with 18:56 remaining.
The first minute of the second stanza proved to be an accurate indicator of the rest of the half.
The Blue Streaks capitalized on Muskingum mistakes and turnovers, never allowing the lead to sink to single-digits again. JCU’s bench upped the lead to 20 at the 11:17 mark of the half. Sophomore John Cirillo enjoyed a big day in the paint, scoring 15 points and bringing down 8 rebounds.
Two technical fouls and scrappy play marked the rest of the game, but the result was never in question in the second half. Easing off the gas pedal in the final minutes, the Blue Streaks walked away with a 99-76 victory at home on Senior Day.
The Blue Streaks followed up that victory with a 83-71 win over Capital University in the first round of the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament. JCU takes the court next on Thursday, Feb. 25 as they continue their push towards an NCAA Tournament berth.