OAKLAND CITY -- They couldn't stop a national leader from doing his thing, but Oakland City University basketball men won Saturday afternoon with perhaps their most impressive performance in several years.
"I felt that if we didn't do everything we can, they'd beat us by 30 points," Coach Mike Sandifar said after the Mighty Oaks' 91-78 win over visiting Salem (W.Va.) University and 6-foot-9 junior Malik Toppin, who remained the NCAA Division II season leader in double-doubles by parleying 27 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, and also blocked 6 shots.
But the Mighty Oaks, to take an 11-2 record into Tuesday's 7 p.m. game vs. visiting St. Louis Christian in Johnson Center, won with an all-around effort. Six-six junior Andrew Scott, shooting 6-for-9 from three-point range and 10-for-11 on free throws, scored a game-high 36 points, 20 leading to his team's 37-32 halftime lead, and took 10 rebounds. Six-five classmate Addison Wagler, before fouling out with 2 minutes, and 11 seconds left and his team leading 82-72, authored 24 points and 5 boards. Six-five junior Logan Worthington, after settling for two points the first half, scored 16 in the second to finish with 18 and match Scott's 10 rebounds. Worthington also blocked four shots.
Five-seven senior Joe Hinton contributed six points and five assists while directing the offense, frequently after a full-court press. Six-one sophomore Beau Hefner, entering when senior starter Andre Bearden drew two early fouls, shot 5-for-5 on free throws and played 31 minutes when it was learned that Brearden had broken the thumb on his right hand. Six-four junior Mitch Frederick played just five minutes but hit his only shot and took two rebounds as OCU managed a 34-31 board edge on the taller Tigers, who lost for the seventh straight time and left with a 4-12 record, including Wednesday night's 81-68 loss at longtime Division II power Kentucky Wesleyan.
"Oakland City's matchup zone kind of whacked us out of rhythm," said Salem Coach Adam Williams, who played basketball for the University of Kentucky in Tubby Smith's coaching era.
"We were hesitant and weren't attacking like we want. And their kids kept hitting shots, not only three's but also jumpers. We didn't get out on their shooters and they made us pay."
The Mighty Oaks not only withstood Toppin, but also the three-point shooting of Six-one junior Darren Montgomery and 6-4 sophomore Jarius Farrow. Montgomery, from Indianapolis Arlington High, scored 21 points on 7-for-9 three-point shooting. Farrow, after scoring just one first-half point, hit four threes the second half to finish with 15.
"After we led by 15 (67-52 with just under nine minutes left), they hit four threes and suddenly our lead was down to eight," Sandifar noted. "Andrew, Addison and Mitch got rebounds that were huge. And we did make some good defensive stops."
OCU's lead cut to 78-70 with almost 3 1/2 minutes left, Wagler scored on a tip-in. Worthington took Hinton's pass and hit a five-footer. Scott made three of four free throws resulting from the fifth foul on 6-4 sophomore Marko Tutunovic plus an ensuing technical on Tutunovic. Thus 89-74 command with a minute left.
"Offensively we spread the floor and moved the ball," Hinton said.
"Defensively we wanted to stop their dribble-drive. So when that was coming, we had two people come over and and get in front of the driver so that it would be a charging foul if he continued."
Worthington called the Mighty Oaks' defensive effort "probably our best of the season. And we hit a lot of shots (31-for-61, which is 50,8 percent; and 22-for-25 free throws, which is 88 percent). And when they cut into our lead, we never rolled over."
Of his 16-point second half, Worthington said, "I worked harder to get open and my teammates got me the ball."
Scott called the Mighty Oaks' defense "better than we usually play. We tried to take away both their dribble-drive and their drive with a screen. Offensively, I ran hard to get open and my teammates got me the ball when I did."
Wagler said the Mighty Oaks "stayed solid and hit shots. Toppin blocked some of my shots, but I kept looking for my teammates and working to get open. I knew that if I kept moving, our guys would find me.
"I also think we did a good job on Toppin. And we played at our tempo."
Sandifar thought the latter factor proved crucial. "We made several passes each possession and made them play defense for long stretches. A lot of players don't like playing defense for 30 seconds at a time," the coach said after his 520th win in 27 Oakland City seasons.
The Mighty Oaks trailed just once, 2-0 when Toppin hit an eight-foot shot. They scored the next 10. including threes by Hinton and Scott and a pair of Wagler baskets. The Tigers drew even at 12 and again at 14, but Scott hit a three, Wagler hit 5 and 12-footers and Worthington drove three-fourths court for a layup that capped a 9-0 run to a 23-14 lead. The Tigers moved within 34-33 on Montgomery's three, but Scott's trey with eight seconds left capped the 37-33 first half. He and Farrow hit to start the second half, but Scott scored from Worthington's pass, Wagler hit two free throws and Worthington scored on a fast break for 46-36 control. Scott's three, followed by Wagler and Worthington baskets made a 7-0 run to 53-40 control and the Oaks did what was needed to fend off Salem comeback tries.
"Our frontliners (Scott, WAgler, Worthington) work so well together," Sandifar said. "Hinton leads us and does so many things well. Hefner played some great defense -- Beau is one of the reasons we won.
"We beat a good team that is taller and quicker at every position."
The men's game marked Saturday's only game, the Lady Oaks' scheduled 1 p.m. opener vs. Wilborforce (Ohio) having been postponed, No makeup date has been set. OCU women will pit a 4-11 record, including six straight losses, vs. Indiana-Southeast at 7 p.m. Monday in Johnson Center -- they'll try to avenge an 87-73 November 11 season-opening loss in New Albany.