The Ottawa University men’s basketball team heads into the holiday break right in the thick of the conference race.

Ottawa improved to 3-1 in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Saturday with a 77-74 win over Bethany in Wilson Field House.

The Braves are tied with Sterling, Friends and Tabor for second place behind University of Saint Mary (4-0).

Ottawa and Starling waged momentum swings, which saw seven lead changes and eight ties.

The Braves pushed the lead to 12 at 64-52 with 5:40 left in the game. Bethany charged back, outscoring Ottawa 22-13 in the final five minutes.

Bethany crept within a point at 75-74 with a little less than a minute left in regulation. Ottawa came up with a defensive stop.

Corey Smith was then fouled and he connected on both of his free throws to give Ottawa a three-point cushion.

Ottawa had a  34-18 advantage in points in the paint and a 14-7 edge in second chance points.

The Braves led 33-30 at halftime. Ottawa’s biggest lead of the first half was 20-13 at the 10:43 mark.

The game was tied four times in the first seven minutes of the second half.

Ottawa took the lead for good at 47-45 with 12:17 left.

Ottawa shot 43 percent from the field and connected on 24 of 34 from the free-throw line.

Chase Dippel paced a balanced attack with 20 points. He also had three assists and two steals. Adam Hasty, Zac Brown and Smith tossed in 14 points each.

Smith snared 11 rebounds for a double. Stephen Feighny had 10 rebounds. Brown finished with three steals.

The Braves (5-6, 3-1) play 3 p.m. Monday against Oneonta State in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Bethany (74) — Nelson 7, Mihalcin 4, Beachum 6, Purtle 18, Abad 11, Bieberie 9, Childress 10, Heald 7, Dodson 2.

Ottawa (77) — Feighny 6, Smith 14, Brown 14, Rose 3, Dippel 20, Lindsay 2, Hasty 14, Regier 4.