John Carroll routes Capital in OAC quarterfinal; Will play No. 21 Marietta on Thursday


JCU Sports Information

P.J. Flannery attempts a 3-pointer in the OAC Quarterfinal against Capital as his brother Sean (10) looks on.

Kyle Kelly, Sports Editor

The Ohio Athletic Conference tournament is head coach Pete Moran’s bread and butter. 

In his first year, the JCU men’s basketball team won the championship and last season they stunned Marietta at their place. They nearly unseated OAC Regular Season Champion Mount Union.

This year, the Blue Streaks dominated the Capital Crusaders with an 84-54 victory in the DeCarlo Varsity Center in the OAC Quarterfinal.

John Carroll rode a two-game win streak into the OAC Tournament, finding their stride just at the right time. On Tuesday, that steady stride turned into a sprint.

The Blue and Gold came out of a locker room like they were attached to a firework. After a few back-and-forth affairs, JCU sparked a 12-0 run. From there, it was about securing the win. And they did just that.

For the remainder of the game, Capital was left playing catch up … except they never caught up. John Carroll clung to at least a 19-point lead for the entirety of the second half, leaving the visiting Crusaders on the way back to Bexley searching for answers.

The fashion in which JCU won was a testament to their fast play and feisty defense.

“The big thing for us, all year, is we wanted to play at that pace. For us to do well today, we needed to keep the pace up, knowing that Capital likes to slow the game down,” assistant coach David Fundstein said after the game.

As they advance to the OAC semifinal, they will face nationally-ranked Marietta at the historic Ban Johnson Arena. Translating Tuesday’s performance into Thursday means JCU is playing at their best.

“We are in OAC Tournament mode right now and they are hungry to do something special,” Fundstein said. “They came out and proved that against Capital.”
In the convincing win against Capital, the Blue Streaks had an added element that they haven’t had all season: bench play. Even more surprisingly, they did it without their top role player, sixth man senior Connor Fitzgerald.

Sophomore P.J. Flannery, who played sparse minutes earlier in the year, contributed 12 points and five rebounds. The Blue and Gold bench as a whole scored 38 of JCU’s 84 points.

“Not going to lie, I was pretty anxious with it all,” Flannery explained with seeing an increase in minutes on the court. “Once I got into the game, my brother Sean talks to me and cools me down. It was pretty good.”

Another bench player, junior Luke Hippler, registered eight rebounds. Five of those rebounds came on the offensive end, allowing the Blue Streaks to generate second-chance opportunities. 

“They beat us on the boards the first two games. That was a huge emphasis for us. If we win on the boards, that is going to put us in a position to win the game,” Hippler said. “We wanted to be aggressive and attack the glass and we did that successfully.”

Moran echoed that same sentiment earlier this year.

“When you win the rebounding battle in the OAC, you usually win the game,” he said previously this season.

When it mattered, the Blue Streaks won that battle 24-18 in the first half.

John Carroll heads to Marietta as an underdog, but it is not unchartered territory.

On Feb. 1, JCU defeated Marietta 67-54. The Blue Streaks only lost by six points at the “Banjo”  — the nickname for the Ban Johnson Arena — earlier in the season. A win would’ve been likely if Jason Ellis hadn’t scored 51 points and the Pioneers hadn’t shot 49 attempts at the free-throw line.

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. and this will be the second consecutive year John Carroll takes on Marietta in the OAC Tournament on the road.