The basketball gods have been unkind to this season’s Ottawa University men’s basketball team.
The Braves lost two games in overtime and missed two game-winning shots at the buzzer. Ottawa took two of the top NAIA teams down to the wire in December, but came up short.
None of those losses were more painful than Thursday’s 89-87 defeat to Bethel in Wilson Field House. Bethel’s Adam Arciniega banked in a shot just inside the half-court line as the buzzer went off to give the Threshers the victory.
“I have had some hard luck teams,” 23-year Ottawa coach Andy Carrier said. “This group is the hardest luck team I have had here. I can’t explain it. They don’t deserve it.
“They are a classy bunch. We have been through all kinds of hard luck. They have stuck together. They have kept working hard. They deserve better. Maybe it is because we are strong character and men of faith. I don’t know what is going to come out of this.”
Carrier knows from experience there is only one way out of this funk that has seen Ottawa drop 10 of 12 games.
“I challenged them to continue to work hard and not break apart,” Carrier said of his post-game message to the players.
“Something good at the end of this will happen. Something maybe even special.
“Quitting is never an option. You have to stay the course. You have to earn your luck. This team has earned more luck than they have gotten. We’ve had our heart ripped out several times this year.”
Ottawa has shown it can play with all of the teams in the conference. Carrier has seen teams catch fire late in the season and ride that momentum into a conference tournament title and an NAIA national tourney berth.
“We have three games left,” he said. “We still have a chance to do something special in the tournament. That is our goal.
“We have some great seniors. You want something better for them going out.”
Ottawa’s offense came back to life. The 87 points was the most since the 96-92 overtime loss to Southwestern on Jan. 10.
Carrier said it was good to see several players make shots. Ottawa senior Chase Dippel tossed in a career-high 32 points as the Braves had four players in double figures. Adam Hasty dished out a career-best eight assists.
Bethel overcame Ottawa by hitting 27 of 40 free throws.
“We could not keep them off the free-throw line,” Carrier said. “They hung around for a long time. We had some shots to extend it out there.
“It is heartbreaking.”
Ottawa (8-17, 5-10) plays 7 p.m. today at Southwestern.
Bethel (89) — Watson 13, Arciniega 24, Cape 16, Moore 7, Griffin 18, Kolbeck 3, Hodge 8.
Ottawa (87) — Feighny 2, Smith 11, Lindsay 20, Hasty 3, Dippel 32, Brown 1, Falk 2, Rose 10, Regier 6.