By: Ryan Gasser, sports information director
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Once the ball went up into the air at The Capital Center, both the visiting John Carroll University Blue Streaks and host Capital University Crusaders engaged in an incredibly physical and fast-paced men's hoops contest that allowed a raucous crowd to witness a true Ohio Athletic Conference classic. With contributions coming from all over the lineup, Capital earned an upset win over the conference leader John Carroll on Saturday afternoon, 85-80.
Outside of the opening three minutes of the game, John Carroll never led by more than one point with the largest lead possessed landing at four points just 2:37 into the game. From there, the battle between the Blue Streaks and Crusaders was fierce with the pendulum swinging back and forth through all 40 minutes.
The dramatics came to its climax near the six-minute mark of the second half when Capital saw its eight-point lead trimmed to a mere three after Brian Papich's close-range jumper. True to how the rest of the game had played out to that point neither team gave in and the Crusaders responded in a big way. Freshman guard Cameron Caldwell (Westerville, Ohio/Westerville South) displayed some slick moves down low with a reverse layup to get back the two points, and then junior Austin Schreck (Erlanger, Ky./Dixie Heights) stole the rock and was fouled on the other end. After hitting his two free throws, the CU lead was back at seven, 70-63.
John Carroll made it a two-possession game on a tip-in by Matthew Csuhran and seemed to gain the momentum back with a block by Papich on the other end, but the Blue Streaks quickly gave possession back to the Crusaders following an errant pass by Antonio Vuyancih. The two teams continued to trade buckets and as the clock dipped under two minutes, Schreck delivered the blow that took the wind out of John Carroll's sails. After the JCU defense forced a situation in which Capital needed to inbound the ball from the baseline with just two seconds left on the shot clock, the combination of Caldwell and Schreck raised the crowd to its feet. Caldwell promptly inbounded to Schreck who was lined up in the near-side corner and launched a perfectly placed triple that swished through the netting and left 55.8 seconds on the clock.
Now up seven, 79-72, Caldwell came up big on the defensive end on the following possession when he tied up Papich on the opposite baseline and was fouled, sending him to the free-throw line. Caldwell split the pair, as did Gavin Wildermuth after he was sent to the line 10 seconds later. Csuhran hit a 3-pointer shortly after, trimming the lead to four with 39 seconds remaining. Play stopped briefly after a timeout was inadvertently administered, but Capital continued to brilliantly break the John Carroll full-court press. The Crusaders hit five consecutive free throws to end the game, and the Blue Steaks were unable to answer leading to a Capital win.
Schreck led all scorers with 22 points on 8-of-14 (.571) from field-goal range and had six rebounds to add to Capital's total. It marks the fourth time in the last five games that the junior has scored at least 20 points.
Caldwell has a solid day as well after scoring 14 points and tallying a career-high six assists. He also recorded two steals.
Gavin Wildemuth (Botkins, Ohio/Jackson Center) joined the duo in double digits following a day in which he scored a career-high 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting.
Caleb Cox, Will Hannah and Tyler Jamison crashed the boards to help Capital hold a 39-31 rebounding edge over the Blue Streaks. Cox and Hannah shared the team lead with eight boards each, and Jamison notched seven rebounds. The trio scored nine, eight and eight points, respectively.
Five Blue Streaks landed in double figures, led by Ryan Berger's 18 points. Berger converted 5-of-8 3-pointers on the day and was 3-for-3 from the free-throw line.
Both teams shot better than 40 percent from field goal range, though Capital's second-half marks helped hold off the guests. Cap shot 58.3 percent from the field and 80 percent (4-5) from long range in the second half. They also shot 15-of-19 (.789) from the charity stripe.
John Carroll entered the game shooting 39.5 percent from 3-point range, but fell short of that mark after the CU defense held the guests to just 33.3 percent.
The win shakes up the Ohio Athletic Conference final standings. John Carroll and Marietta College will now share the regular season championship after the Pioneers defeated the Polar Bears, though via tiebreaker the Blue Streaks remain the top seed in the upcoming tournament.
Capital is slated into the sixth seed of the OAC Tournament behind its 8-10 conference record. This means the Crusaders will be on the road and take on the No. 3 seed Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio on Tuesday, Feb. 20. Game time has yet to be determined.
More details on the upcoming matchup between the Polar Bears and Crusaders will be made available on Monday morning.