McPHERSON — Defending conference champion McPherson gave Ottawa University men’s basketball team a blueprint to overcome the Braves’ recent struggles.

McPherson had trouble winning close games this season after winning a lot a year ago. The Bulldogs were mired in their fourth straight dogfight Saturday in McPherson against the Braves.

Ottawa had a chance to win the game, but a last-second trey hit the back iron and bounced away, giving the Bulldogs a 65-63 victory.

“They have been through their struggles,” Ottawa coach Andy Carrier said of the Bulldogs. “They fought through it. They have come out on the other side. They have won three out of the last four.

“That is the challenge before us. See if we can come out on the other side.”

Ottawa showed signs it was coming out of its slump.

“It was the first game out of the last four or five we fought for the whole 40 minutes,” Carrier said. “We dug ourselves out of a hole. We actually ended up getting a shot to win the whole darn thing. It did not go in, that was unfortunate. We stuck together.”

The game was close throughout with seven ties and six lead changes. McPherson opened the second half with a 13-6 blitz to open a 13-point lead at 47-34.

The Braves worked hard to get back in the game and tied it at 52-52 with 7:40 remaining.

“They battled hard,” Carrier said. “We made plays when we needed to.

“I am feeling better about their effort and togetherness. We guarded. We played our tail’s off  on defense. We gave ourselves a chance.”

Ottawa took a 58-56 lead on Adam Hasty’s trey with 4:40 left. Ottawa led 60-56 with 3:50 remaining.

McPherson scored seven straight points for a 63-60 lead with 1:02 left. Ottawa tied it at 63-63 when Kameron Lindsay stole the ball and was fouled. He hit one free throws with 19 seconds left.

“He is playing his tail off on the defensive end,” Carrier said of Lindsay, who had 11 points and three steals. “He is trying hard. He is our best defender. He is unselfishness. He could not play all summer so his shot has not falling like did last year.”

McPherson’s Devirous Johnson was fouled with four seconds left and hit both free throws to give the Bulldogs a two-point lead.

“We missed free throws and they made free throws down the stretch ... that is the difference,” Carrier said.

Hasty got a good look at the buzzer, but the ball would not drop.

Ottawa had 12 of its 19 turnovers in the first half.

“Too many turnovers in the first half,” Carrier said. “Unforced turnovers .. that is new to us.”

Corey Smith finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds.

Ottawa (8-14, 6-6) plays 8 p.m. Thursday at Bethany.

McPherson (65) — Hewitt 7, Hill 8, Lakin 6, Shivers 9, Bruner 18, Johnson 9, Powers 2, Reinhardt 1, Woods 2, Miller 3.

Ottawa (63) — Smith 11, Lundry 2, Hasty 8, Rose 6, Dippel 9, Brown 2, Lindsay 11, Feighny 8, Regier 6.