Blue Streaks open OAC play with loss to undefeated Marietta

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Blue Streaks open OAC play with loss to undefeated Marietta

JCU Sophomore Luke Hippler (12) goes up for a layup between two Marietta defenders, successfully scoring. (JCU Sports Information)

JCU Sophomore Luke Hippler (12) goes up for a layup between two Marietta defenders, successfully scoring. (JCU Sports Information)

JCU Sports Info

JCU Sophomore Luke Hippler (12) goes up for a layup between two Marietta defenders, successfully scoring. (JCU Sports Information)

JCU Sports Info

JCU Sports Info

JCU Sophomore Luke Hippler (12) goes up for a layup between two Marietta defenders, successfully scoring. (JCU Sports Information)

Darrell Lane, Staff Reporter

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On Saturday, Dec. 1, the John Carroll University men’s basketball team had a huge challenge on their hands as they opened up conference play against the undefeated Marietta College Pioneers at the DeCarlo Varsity Center.

In a game that had lots of implications and back-and-forth action, the Blue and Gold would come up just short as the Pioneers outlasted them 75–82, giving the Blue Streaks their first Ohio Athletic Conference loss of the year.

During the first half of the game, the Blue and Gold struggled to get their offense going from the three-point range. As a team they shot 20 percent from “downtown.” While JCU continued to struggle to get their offense going from deep, they found other ways to stay in the game. One of those ways was by controlling the pace of play, which was evident by their low 29 shot attempts compared to the Pioneers’ 32 shot attempts.

In the second half of the contest, the Blue Streaks would start to find their rhythm on offense, shooting 48.6 percent from the field. Additionally, JCU would do a great job of “gang rebounding” as they controlled the battle of the boards, with a 22 to 18 advantage over Marietta.

A catalyst for the Blue and Gold’s rebound production was sophomore forward Emil Hess, who had five rebounds in the second half.

John Carroll tightened up the screws on the defensive end of the floor, as they held the Pioneers to 40 percent shooting from the field.

One key contributor to the Blue Streaks’ second half performance was senior center Allen Stokes, who served as a dominant force in the paint for the Blue Streaks. Stokes displayed his great rim protection as he blocked three shots, which led the team in that category.

Stokes told The Carroll News afterwards, “Our goal was to bring high energy and get good defensive stops. Personally, I just wanted to do whatever the team needed me to do.” With the Blue and Gold putting up such a collective effort on both sides of the court, they were able to claw their way back into the contest against Marietta.

At the 2:25 minute mark of the second half, the Blue and Gold would lead 67–65 following a three-pointer by Hess.

After that, however, the Pioneers would rally to beat the Blue and Gold by a six-point score.

Even in a loss, there were many positive takeaways for the Blue Streaks as they were finally able to crack the Marietta code on offense and defense end, outscoring the Pioneers 44–42 in the second half. “Despite the loss, we are all still very optimistic about the potential that our team has,” said Stokes.

The Blue Streaks played with plenty of effort, which was made clear by the fact that JCU had 20 second chance points.

Junior guard Jimmy Berger was the star for the game for the Blue and Gold, as he had a team high 19 points while contributing on the defense end of the floor with one block and two steels. Berger also showcased his efficiency, as he shot 50 percent from the field and only recorded one turnover in the game.

John Carroll’s defense played well collectively, holding Marietta’s leading scorer Kyle Dixon to 19 points. JCU forced Dixon to go 0–4 from three-point range.

The Blue Streaks faced their OAC rivals,the Mount Union Purple Raiders, on Dec. 5, in Alliance, Ohio. Results were not available at press time but can be accessed at JCUSports.com