OTTAWA — Ottawa did the little things. Geneseo did not.|
That made all the difference.
The Pirates' foul shooting down the stretch of Friday's Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference clash clinched a 44-39 victory for host Ottawa over the Maple Leafs on Friday at Kingman Gym.
Ottawa had a 38-36 lead with 36 seconds to play in the fourth quarter when its free-throw accuracy was put to the test. Chase Hill hit both of his attempts at that time. In the final 19 seconds, John Carroll calmly drained four of four to preserve the victory and boost Ottawa's record to 4-2 with a 1-1 conference mark. Geneseo's records are identical.
There was rarely more than a four-point difference in the score all night, though there were just three lead changes and five ties. It was 11-11 after one period and the Maple Leafs led 26-22 at the half. Ottawa turned it up a notch after the break, and it looked as if the second half might be all for the home team. Carroll made a couple of free throws to start the third period and Hill tied it at 26 off an assist by Jacob Draper, then put the Pirates in front on a solo drive to the hoop. The lead switched a couple of times, but with three seconds remaining in the stanza, Tabor Griglione canned a 3-pointer to give Ottawa a 34-32 lead going into the final frame.
The fourth quarter opened with J.D. Bryant and Carroll each using Hill assists to bump the Pirate lead to 38-32, the largest margin of the night, before Geneseo's Luke Snyder broke Ottawa's seven-point run with a bucket off an assist from Ethan Radue. Jordan Starkey cut the Pirate lead to a deuce, but then the Ottawa free-throw shooting came to the surface and locked up the game.
"The pace definitely changed in the second half, but I don't know if it made the difference in the outcome or not," said Geneseo coach Brad Storm. "I thought it was more a case of Ottawa doing the little things and us making mistakes and missing free throws. We got out of our offense and took some shots that weren't in our flow and that put us behind. I don't know if we're a very good come-from-behind team yet. We battled in a tough environment."
Starkey led Geneseo in points (12), rebounds (five), assists (five) and steals (two). Both clubs shot better than 43 percent from the field, but at the foul line it was all Ottawa, as the Pirates connected on 15 of 21, while the Leafs were 7 of 13.
"We had a little bit better energy in the second half," said Ottawa coach Mark Cooper. "I thought in the first half they kind of got what they wanted offensively, but in the second half we contested more things. They had too much freedom of movement in the first half."
Ottawa did a good job of keeping 6-foot-7 Austin Frank from doing much damage as he finished with five points. Draper used his body to good effect and Frank got himself into foul trouble compensating.
"We didn't give him any easy baskets in there," said Cooper. "I thought, for the most part, Jacob moved him off his sweet spot and we limited some of their high-low looks. Jacob played well tonight, offensively, defensively with his floor game and he was a presence in the lane."
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