Men's Basketball hangs on for thrilling 63-61 victory over North Central (Ill.) at Classic in Las Vegas

Men's Basketball hangs on for thrilling 63-61 victory over North Central (Ill.) at Classic in Las Vegas

By Tim Glon

| Classic Site |

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — The Ohio Northern men's basketball team got a career-high 16 points from senior Daniel Donner (Bellville/Northmor) and a career-high 10 points from senior Kevin Austin (Cincinnati/Winton Woods) and posted a thrilling 63-61 victory over North Central (Ill.) on the second day of the 9th annual Classic on Thursday evening at the South Point Arena.

The Polar Bears (4-8 overall) finished the tournament with a 1-1 record and snapped a 6-game losing streak in the process.

The Cardinals (11-2 overall) got 23 points from Connor Raridon and 12 points from Blaise Meredith.

Senior All-American Ryan Bruns (Chckasaw/Marion Local) played a complete game for ONU, scoring 12 points, grabbing four rebounds, dishing out five assists and blocking four shots.

Freshman Ty Staten (Proctorville/Fairland) added 10 points and senior Austin Allemeier (Lima/Elida) had five points and a game-high eight rebounds for the Polar Bears.

Bruns established himself as a force early in the game as he won the opening tip, scored a basket and blocked two shots in the first minute.

He was named to the All-Tournament Team for his efforts.

"I was very proud of how hard we played tonight," ONU head coach Rich Bensman said. "We got off to a great start and held our composure down the stretch. We also had several guys step up big tonight - hitting big shots and playing defense. Guys hit big shots from the perimeter and that made it more difficult on North Central to double and triple team Bruns down low.

After an exchange of free throws made it 59-49 with 4:07 to go in the game, NCC scored the next seven points to pull within 59-56 with 59.9 seconds to go.

Bruns made a pair of free throws to give ONU a 61-56 lead with 58.7 seconds remaining and Allemeier hit two more free throws to give ONU a 63-58 lead with :44.3 left.

After a long 3-pointer by NCC, Austin missed a pair of a free throws with 20.6 left and the lead was still 63-61.

But ONU's defense was solid in the final possession. Meredith missed a twisting layup at the rim and Austin grabbed the rebound as time expired as the Polar Bears held on for the win.

"Defensively I thought we were very good for the most part. Bruns was a force on defense and that cleaned things up for us. Allemeier had eight rebounds. It was a total team effort. We see our guys hit shots in practice all the time. It's nice to see them go down for those guys in games. (ONU head football coach) Dean Paul always says you are only one big play and one big win away from turning things around and hopefully this is the game and the big shots that can turn our season around."

NCC pulled within 40-37 with 12:09 left in the game, but a 3-pointer by sophomore Thomas Phillips (Kenton) gave ONU a 43-37 lead with 12:02 to play.

A basket by Austin made it 47-42 and an and-one by Donner extended the lead to 50-42 with 7:22 to play. Donner then nailed back-to-back threes and it was 58-48 at the 4:50 mark.

Ohio Northern was 21-of-46 from the floor for 45.7 percent and made 9-of-18 from beyond the arc for 50.0 percent, while North Central made 18-of-52 field goals for 34.6 percent and were 4-of-18 from 3-point range for 22.2 percent.

NCC out-rebounded ONU 32-31.

Northern did not trail in the game, as a 3-pointer from Austin gave ONU a 7-0 lead and forced a NCC timeout just 4:40 into the contest.

A three by Donner extended the Polar Bear lead to 10-1 with 5:09 gone and another 3 from Austin put ONU on top 13-3 with 13:34 left in the half.

A pair of free throws by Staten at the 9:52 mark gave ONU a 19-5 lead.

NCC answered with an 8-0 run, keyed by a 6-for-6 performance at the foul line, to trim the lead to 19-13.

But a layup by senior Grant McConnell (Fremont/Ross) and a jumper by Austin gave ONU a 23-13 advantage with 4:49 left before the half.

Staten, Bruns and freshman Daniel Unruh (Elida) all made 3-pointers to put Ohio Northern up 32-17 with 2:22 left in the half and the Polar Bears went into intermission with a 35-25 lead.

In all, eight women's teams and 10 men's teams from Maine to Oregon will play in 18 games over four days at the Classic.

The Polar Bears will begin its string of 13 consecutive Ohio Athletic Conference contests to end the season on Jan. 5 with a 2 p.m. road contest at Muskingum.