Having tied a school record set by their 2017-18 predecessors, Oakland City University Men's basketball men can match that team's school record in another way by doing something last year's Mighty Oaks didn't do:
Win the Christian College National Invitational Tournament which starts at 1 p.m. Thursday in Johnson Center and ends with Saturday's 7 p.m. championship game.
After winning the first four CCNITs from 2012 through 2015, the Mighty Oaks finished third to Morthland in 2016 and second each of the past two years, to Southwestern Adventist in 2017 and Wilberforce last March.
They'll take a 21-5 record, including a 16-game win streak that matches the record set last season, against Southeastern Baptist (14-13) at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Wilberforce, an 87-80 victor in the 2017 final, will open Thursday play by pitting a 6-16 record vs. East-West (6-24) at 1 p.m..
Rhema Bible will meet Campbellsville (Ky.)-Harrodsburg (7-13) at 3 p.m., followed by Johnson (of Kissimmee, Fla.) (8-22) vs. Campbellsville (Ky.)-Somerset (6-18) at 5 p.m..
Thursday afternoon losers will open Friday play at 1 p.m., followed by Thursday night losers at 3 p.m..
Thursday afternoon winners will play the first semifinal at 5 p.m. Friday, followed at 7 p.m. by Thursday night winners.
Saturday will find Friday afternoon losers playing for seventh place at 1 p.m., followed at 3 p.m. by the fifth-place game between Friday afternoon victors.
Semifinal losers will play at 5 p.m. Saturday for third place, followed by the championship matchup.
So the Mighty Oaks can match last season's school-record 24 wins by capturing OCU's first CCNIT crown since 2015. They'll start by trying to three-peat wins of 101-82 January 11 and 99-83
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January 12 over Southeastern Baptist, whose Chargers will bring a 14-13 record from Laurel, Miss.
"When we played them in January, they didn't have their best player (6-foot-5 freshman De'Arius Henyard), who was averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds," Sandifar said. "Like other teams in this tournament, their record is deceiving because they've played a tough schedule. Yet Southeastern Baptist has a winning record.
"I think they'll give us a great game."
Chargers Coach Brad Phillips noted that "we had a couple guys who didn't make the trip to Oakland City in January.
"And Jalen Lett, who stands 6-6, came to us the second semester. Chris Early, a 6-4 freshman, also became eligible. So we'll have a little more size.
"We're also better defensively than we were two months ago.
"We must keep Oakland City off the glass. They're big and strong."
Six-two freshman Trojan Fielder leads the Chargers with 17 points per game.
Six-foot freshman Chavis Smith adds 11 and 6-2 classmate Glenn Grover 10.
Two more freshmen, 6-1 Mathias Pruitt and 6-5 Quad McArdes, add eight and four.
Oakland City University seniors Andrew Scott and Logan Worthington, having risen in the program's record book, seek to close their careers with their first CCNIT title.
The 6-6 South Knox-bred Scott, this season averaging 22.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists, has scored 2,129 career points, second in OCU history to Jim Fleming's 2,402 from 1970-71 through 1973-74.
The 6-5 Worthington, from Evansville Reitz, stands 10th in career points with 1,457 and fourth in career rebounds with 766 after averaging 20.7 and 9.8 the regular season -- Thursday he is apt to pass the 1,458 points by 1994 grad and Wood Memorial bred Greg Wilkinson, and the 1,462 by 2007 grad Chad Miller.
Six-seven junior and Pike Central grad Tyler Toopes adds 14.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and a team-leading 5.8 assists; 5-11 North Posey-bred freshman Jacob Sanford 10.3 points and 2.6 rebounds; 6-7 sophomore center Nathaniel Schmittler 8.5 points and 9.8 rebounds. Sanford leads OCU with 50 percent three-point shooting and 87.8 percent free throwing. Six-five freshman and Pike Central-bred Bryant Nalley is averaging 7.4 points and 3.7 rebounds as sixth man.
"We don't set a specific or tournament goal when the season starts. We just want to reach our potential," Sandifar said. "If we do the best we can, that's how it turns out. This potentially is the best CCNIT we've had -- definitely it's a big thing for the community, the way the community has supported the tournament. Last year the attendance increased each day."
All eight teams will attend Wednesday's 7 p.m. pre-tournament banquet in the Bower-Suhrheinrich Student Center, where Indiana Sports Talk host and Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer Bob Lovell will be featured speaker.
Sandifar said tournament ticket prices are $12 per day and $30 for a three-day pass. Deadline for the three-day purchase is Wednesday afternoon.
Previews of Thursday's first three games will appear in Thursday's edition of the Daily Clarion.