ADA — Heidelberg’s full-court press came at Ohio Northern in waves.
But the Polar Bears never flinched.
They simply navigated the press and ran their offense.
Ohio Northern survived the 40 minutes of pressure and pulled away with a 91-78 victory over Heidelberg in a men’s college basketball game Wednesday at the King Horn Center.
“We had to keep the proper spacing with their pressure,” ONU coach Rich Bensman said. “Whether it was a zone press or a man press, we talk about being 15-to-18 feet apart with some cutters going through the middle. I thought we did a pretty good job, which opened us up to attack it a little bit. We don’t want anyone to press for free. So if we got a good bucket, we get them, but the big key is to come down after we beat the pressure, and we don’t have the easy bucket, we have to execute.
“They want to speed you up and make an errant pass, so they can get a tip on it and go the other way. They thrive on that. … So we wanted to get down the floor with composure and patience and execute what we do.”
ONU hit its first seven 3-pointers to build up a 54-33 halftime lead.
Heidelberg’s press brought it back within nine in the second half, but ONU held it off from there.
ONU (15-7) won its 10th straight game. The Polar Bears stand 13-2 in the Ohio Athletic Conference, tied for first with Marietta (13-2).
Heidelberg is 9-13, 5-10 in the OAC.
Devon Allen (Lima Senior) led the Polar Bears with 21 points and three 3-pointers.
“I thought we did a pretty good job breaking the press,” Allen said. “We were calm and we moved the ball pretty well. We finished some layups. And we were very active on the defensive side.”
Konnor Baker (Ada) had 18 points, while Nate Burger scored 16. Joey DiOrio had 13 points and three 3-pointers.
Ryan Bruns (Marion Local) had eight points and 10 rebounds.
Chris Moxley scored 19 for Heidelberg, while Myron Prewitt added 17.
ONU used a 15-0 run to pull out to a 30-12 lead with 11:23 left in the first half. During that run, Baker hit a 17-footer and a fast-break layup and DiOrio knocked down three 3-pointers.
“Once one or two go, it’s like an avalanche,” Baker said of the 3-pointers.
The key for ONU was breaking both the man and the 1-2-1-1 Heidelberg press, then running its offense.
“They try to get you out of your rhythm,” Allen said. “So I thought we did a pretty good job of controlling the pace. …. In second half, we were able to break the press, then get it back out and get the shot we wanted.”
ONU built its lead to 23, 62-39, with 16 minutes to go.
But ONU fully expected Heidelberg to make a run. In the Jan. 18 game at Heidelberg, it was a back-and-forth contest with ONU pulling it out 84-78 in overtime.
“We knew it was going to happen,” Baker said. “We were up 20 in the first half the first time we played them and they stormed back.”
Moxley and DeAvery Collins (12 points) helped bring Heidelberg back in the second half with a 10-0 run.
Heidelberg got as close as nine, 69-60, with 9:22 to go.
“We set up in a little different alignment (against the press),” Bensman said. “So we gave them a few different looks after that timeout.”
Burger sank a pair of free throws, Allen hit a step-back 15-footer, Burger hit a 3-pointer and the Polar Bears were back in control 76-62 with 7:44 to play.
“We took care of the ball a little better in the second half,” Baker said.
ONU shot 49 percent from the field and hit 8 of 22 on 3-pointers. Heidelberg shot 48 percent and was 6 of 18 on 3-pointers.
ONU won the boards, 35-33.
ONU point guard Joey Hurless had six points, six assists and held Heidelberg’s leading scorer Kiere Bennie to 11 points, four under his average.
“He’s (Hurless) our defensive stopper,” Bensman said.