ADA — Big time players have to make big time plays in order for their team to win, especially in conference play. Branden Rushton scored 26 points for Ohio Northern as he led his team to a 96-86 Ohio Athletic Conference win over Heidelberg on Wednesday night.
The Polar Bears (13-9, 9-6 OAC) lost to Heidelberg earlier this season and wanted to redeem themselves this time.
“We wanted to be more complete because we seem to play better that way,” ONU coach Kevin Byrne said. “We tried to mix up the defense. The guys did a good job. I felt like we were stronger with the ball in the second half.”
The Polar Bears did not get off to the start that they wanted to begin the game. Heidelberg took a 4-2 lead with 18:15 left to play in the half. ONU got its first lead of the game when Rushton drilled a three to give his team a 5-4 lead with 18:01 left.
The Polar Bears continued to extend their lead all the way to 13-8 with 14:51 left to play. Byrne decided to take his starters out to give them some rest.
That is when Heidelberg began their comeback. The Student Princes went on a 10-4 run to take a 19-18 lead with 10:30 left in the first half.
ONU was down 21-19 when Byrne decided to put his starters back in. Rushton drilled the first shot he took when he came back in to tie the game at 21. On ONU’s next possession Rushton drilled another three to give his team a 24-21 lead with 8:11 left to play. The Polar Bears eventually extended their lead to as many as 12 points at 36-24 with 4:41 left in the half.
Heidelberg (5-17, 1-14 OAC) was able to narrow the deficit to 43-38 with 43 seconds left. ONU killed the clock on its last possession of the half when Rushton missed a jumper. Dominique Royal grabbed the rebound and also missed but Jared Horstman was able to tip in the miss as time expired to give the Polar Bears a 45-38 lead at halftime.
ONU shot 18-30 from the field while Heidelberg shot 15-29 in the first half.
Byrne got his Polar Bears fired up at halftime because they came out hot in the second half. Rushton came out firing and scored 16 points in the half. Rushton’s biggest highlight wasn’t even on a play he scored on. After grabbing a rebound, Rushton took the ball and sprinted down the court and lobbed it up to Royal who threw down a dunk and also got fouled on the play. Royal hit the free throw to give the Polar Bears a 54-44 lead with 16:39 left to play.
ONU got up by as many as 18 when Royal put in another easy basket to make the score 89-72.
The Polar Bears never looked back from there for the rest of the game as they held off the Student Princes and got the 10-point victory.
Rushton led the way for ONU with 26 points. Isaiah Roux scored 20 points, Horstman scored 14 and grabbed seven rebounds, Jordan Martin had 13 points and Royal had 10.
“Our bench guys play a lot for us and Jordan (Martin) anchored that crew for us,” Byrne said. “Obviously Branden is one of the best scorers in the league, and he’ll be one of the best scorers in the history of the school when he’s done here. When he gets going he’s a handful.”
Mount St. Joseph 90, Bluffton 79
BLUFFTON - Thayne Recker had 15 points and eight rebounds for the Beavers. Billy Taflinger had 14 points and seven assists, Austin Rohde had 13 points and Zach Rumbaugh had 12 points also for Bluffton, which fell to 8-13 overall and 4-10 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. Mount St. Joseph improved to 12-8 overall and 9-5 in the HCAC.
ONU 62, Heidelberg 54
TIFFIN - Jordan Kimes had 22 points and 10 rebounds and Cenzie Yoder had 12 points and seven rebounds for Ohio Northern, which improved to 18-4 overall and 11-4 in the OAC. Heidelberg fell to 11-11 overall and 4-11 in the OAC.
Bluffton 68, Mount St. Joseph 60
CINCINNATI - Brooke Ruffer had 24 points and 14 rebounds for the Beavers, who improved to 12-10 overall and 8-7 in the HCAC. Taylor Whitaker had 12 points and Kaitlyn Pennekamp had 10 points and seven rebounds also for Bluffton. Mount St. Joseph fell to 2-13 overall and 2-20 in the HCAC.
UNOH 57, Lourdes 48
SYLVANIA - Lauren Hopfner had 18 points and Sammi Dervisevic had 15 points and seven rebounds for the University of Northwestern Ohio, which improved to 14-13 overall and 11-8 in Wolverine Hoosier Athletic Conference.