By: Sean Neidig, sports information graduate assistant
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Coming into Saturday's matchup with identical 10-10 overall records and 6-7 marks in the Ohio Athletic Conference, a win could mean a lot for the Capital University Crusaders and the University of Mount Union Purple Raiders in terms of conference tournament seeding.
This fact was certainly not lost on the Crusaders as they came out of the gates to score 17 unanswered points and never trailed in a dominating 86-74 win.
Junior forward Caleb Cox (Cincinnati, Ohio/Oak Hills) started the barrage with a layup and a three-pointer from Joey Weingartner (Centerville, Ohio/Centerville) pushed the early lead to five. Cameron Caldwell (Westerville, Ohio/Westerville South) converted a layup of his own and a deep connection from Austin Schreck (Erlanger, Ky./Dixie Heights) pushed the lead to 10, forcing Mount Union to call timeout less than two and a half minutes into the game.
Back-to-back buckets in the paint by Schreck and Cox prompted another Purple Raider timeout and after a turnover out of the breather, Weingartner connected from beyond the arc to push Capital's lead to 17-0. JJ Kukura ended the Mount Union drought with a layup with 14:49 left on the clock.
Over the next seven minutes, the Crusaders continued their offensive onslaught with a 17-6 run that pushed the advantage to 26, Capital's largest of the game with the scoreboard showing 34-8. The Purple Raiders found a little rhythm to end the half on a 16-7 run but Capital held a 41-24 advantage at the break.
The Crusaders shot better than 56 percent from the floor in the first 20 minutes and connected on six of their 11 attempts from behind the arc. Mount Union only hit 2-of-11 from deep and shot 42.3 percent from the floor. Capital's 13 first-half assists was a testament to the team's passing ability and willingness to find the open man. Will Hannah (Milford, Ohio/Milford) and Dan Auble (Brecksville, Ohio/Brecksville) each had three helpers in the opening half and Schreck led the team with 12 points.
The second half started with five-straight points from Mount Union but the Crusaders immediately responded with a 12-4 spurt. Mount Union was able to battle back and shrunk the deficit to only nine points with 11:43 left to play. A layup from Thomas Mason made it 55-48 Capital and the Purple Raiders refused to go away, coming within five with 8:26 to play, Capital leading 58-53.
After Caldwell hit a free throw to make the score 59-53, two Schreck three-pointers sandwiched around a pair of makes at the charity stripe pushed the lead back into double digits and a lay-in by Schreck put Capital ahead 69-55.
The Purple Raiders again battled back though, getting as close as six points with 2:32 left in the game but Capital had the answer every time they needed a basket and closed out the win. Despite getting outscored in the second half, the Crusaders were more efficient from the floor, making 14-of-21 shots to bring their shooting percentage for the game to 60.8 percent. Capital continued to move the ball as well with seven second-half assists.
Schreck was the leading scorer for Capital with a game-high 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting, including 4-of-4 from downtown. The guard also finished with five rebounds and five helpers. Cox finished just behind Schreck with a season-high 22 points, only missing one of his eight shots from the floor and going 8-of-11 from the free throw line. Hannah added 11 points and pulled down seven boards, dishing out four assists. Kukura was Mount Union's leading scorer with 21 points.
As a team, Capital dominated down low with 34 rebounds to Mount Union's 25. The Crusaders also got out on the break with 14 fast-break points to Mount Union's two.
With only four games remaining in the regular season, the Crusaders sit fifth in the conference with a 7-7 OAC record. Capital will have a chance to pick up a game on one of the conference leaders on Wednesday when they host Marietta College in The Capital Center, where the Crusaders are 8-2 this season. Tipoff for that contest is scheduled for 7 p.m.