OLATHE — The offenses in nearly every sport takes time to get rolling. The Ottawa University men’s basketball team struggled offensively in its two exhibition games versus NCAA Division I opponents Oklahoma State and UMKC.
The Braves opened the regular season getting back to business and showing why they are one of the top offenses in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference. Ottawa averaged 75 points last year.
Ottawa, which returned 11 of its 12 top players from last year, started finding the range from outside and got the ball inside Tuesday in the 90-80 loss to No. 16 MidAmerica Nazarene in the Bell Family Arena in Olathe.
The Braves, who were a woeful 5-of-39 in the exhibition games from behind the arc, went 11 of 27 and shot 43 percent overall from the field. Ottawa had 18 assists after generating just 14 in the earlier games combined. Ottawa averaged nearly 15 assists last year.
Ottawa coach Andy Carrier preached ball movement throughout the summer and preseason to his players.
“When you guys move the ball basketball you will be impossible to guard,” Carrier said of his message. “We do have inside-out and a lot of shooters.
“We got the ball moving better. We need to generate some offense with our defense. We need to attack in transition and get the ball side-to-side. We did that. I saw us in practices and scrimmages pass the ball well. Maybe it was who we’ve been playing, but we had 14 [assists] in two games. I was really encouraged by that.”
It resulted in balanced scoring with four players in double figures. Senior Chase Dippel, who struggled making shots in the exhibition games, was 7-of-13 from the field en route to a team-best 18 points and three assists.
Senior Corey Smith, who had eight double-doubles last year, had 17 points, 12 rebounds and three assists. Sophomore Zach Brown tossed in career-best 16 points. Senior Stephen Feighny finished with 11 points.
Brown took over the starting point guard spot when Adam Hasty went down with a knee injury right before the Oklahoma State exhibition.
“That was big for Zach,” Carrier said. “It was a bust out night. He got some confidence and guys have some confidence in him.”
Each team put on offensive runs.
“I saw a lot more effort,” Carrier said. “I really liked our energy. We were working hard on the defensive end, trying to talk a little bit. That was an excellent sign. I was encouraged by that. We have guarded well in practice.”
MidAmerica broke it open in the second half, building a 14-point lead, by getting high-percentage shots.
“We lost focus and did not get back,” Carrier said. “You have to take away transition first. We did for a long time. We got a little tired and missed a couple of shots. They put that knockout blow on us with six or seven minutes to go. It something we can build off of.
“They are well-coached. We fought with them for about 34 minutes. I am hoping we can get to where we can fight for 40. If we play this hard every night, we will be a good basketball team.”
Carrier liked how the newcomers are blending with the holdovers.
“We are going to end up being a pretty deep basketball team,” Carrier said. “Probably one of our deeper teams we’ve had in quite some time.
“We have some high-character guys. They will graduate and be successful. I like the make-up of this group.”
Ottawa (0-1) plays at home Friday and Saturday in the KCAC/HAAC Classic. The basketball games have been moved to the afternoon because of the volleyball conference tournament matches.
Ottawa plays 2:30 p.m. Friday against Peru State and 3 p.m. Saturday versus rival Baker.
MidAmerica Nazarene (90) — French 11, Thomas 17, Syrie 8, Langrehr 14, Dowd 20, Collard 5, Clark 6, Newton 4, Weigel 3, Launius 3.
Ottawa (80) — Smith 17, Brown 16, Brown 16, Lindsay 9, Dippel 18, Lyons 3, Rose 4, Feighny 11, Lundry 2.