JCU rebounds with win against nationally ranked opponent


JCU Sports Information

Sean Freeman goes up for a lay-up.

Sean Freeman, Staff Reporter

John Carroll University men’s basketball team proved on Feb. 2 that they can still contend with the top teams in not only the Ohio Athletic Conference, but also the country, in an 88-69 rout over the Capital Crusaders.

Having won 44 of the 81 matchups between their storied conference rival, the Blue Streaks have been able to consistently dominate the Crusaders in the Tony DeCarlo Center, posting a 27-13 record when playing at home against the Crusaders.  

Heading into this contest, however, the Blue and Gold were facing an opponent who handled them with relative ease back on Jan. 12. There, Capital led at times by as many as 30 points, finishing the game with a comfortable 98-85 win.

This past Saturday, the Blue Streaks turned the tide with a convincing win over a team ranked 19th in the country heading into the action.

John Carroll led the entire way in the contest, but that did not stop the Crusaders from applying pressure, nipping at the Blue Streaks’ heels.  

After taking a lead as large as 12 points in the first half, the Crusaders cut the deficit to six points after a 5-0 run to end the half.  

The Purple and White continued to chip away at the Blue Streaks into the second half, coming as close to one bucket away from evening the score at 40 points apiece with a little under 18 minutes remaining in the game.  

With their backs pressed against the wall and a determination to hold their lead, the Blue and Gold fired off a 16-4 run to the eruption of the JCU crowd.  

For almost six minutes, John Carroll dominated the floor, and they maintained their lead throughout the remainder of the competition.  

While out-rebounded by a 38-35 margin, John Carroll proved more steady than Capital on the offensive end, shooting 48.4 percent from the field and only yielding seven turnovers compared to Capital’s 16.  

JCU forced Capital into a 22.6 percent three-point line efficiency, paired with 36.7 percent from the field, and surrendered only 69 points, the fewest John Carroll has allowed from an opponent throughout the entire 2018-2019 campaign.

The win displayed just how crucial Ryan Berger is to the JCU system. Leading the Blue Streaks alongside his brother Jimmy Berger with 19 points, four assists and a perfect 6-6 free throw performance, his return from injury has been nothing short of a blessing for the team. During that 19-point outing, he surpassed 750 career points in a JCU uniform. Luke Hippler added 18 points, 12 of which came in the first half, and five boards.

At a time where are there are only five games left in the regular season, the Blue Streaks are in a prime position to end conference play on a positive note. All of the remaining contests are inter-OAC conference play, three of which will occur this week: away against Heidelberg on Monday, Feb 4, facing Baldwin Wallace in Berea on Feb. 6, and taking on Ohio Northern at home on Saturday, Feb. 9.

John Carroll is ranked right in the middle of these opponents, two and a half games out of fifth place and two and a half games from completely falling out of the end of the year OAC tournament.  

The Student Princes, who are the only other conference team that has beaten the Capital Crusaders and Baldwin Wallace, just edged out JCU in an overtime thriller back on Jan. 16.  Ohio Northern has yet to win a conference match, and the Blue Streaks hope to keep it that way this coming Saturday.

This is do or die time for John Carroll. With the older Berger back in the lineup, strong defensive play and protection of the basketball, the team has an opportunity to advance to the postseason and provide some more upset magic.