The Braves were a completely different team. Ottawa played with intensity all over the floor and together. Ottawa floundered in the first half and dug a 19-point hole.
The Braves climbed back within a point, but Sterling answered and held off Ottawa for an 87-78 victory.
Ottawa coach Andy Carrier said he doesn’t have an answer to why the Braves are so inconsistent, but will not stop trying to find the right pieces.
“I will keep trying to push the right buttons and find the right groups to put out there that will represent the game of basketball and Ottawa University on a more consistent basis,” he said. “We are at the time of year now, it has to come within.”
It took Ottawa seven minutes to erase nearly all the 15-point halftime deficit. Ottawa came within 51-50.
“We had a little passion, little energy ... we actually looked for each other and shared the ball for a long time in the second half,” Carrier said. “College basketball is a great game. If you don’t play it with passion and energy and selfishness, it no fun anybody. No fun to watch. We came out in the second half and did some of those things. It was a lot more fun for us and the fans. We really battling to learn that lesson.
“You have to bring it every night. That is the magic formula.”
Carrier said there was some soul searching and reminding the players about playing together.
“There are no shortcuts to success,” Carrier said. “I told them several times when we go through adversity, if you roll over and quit, it is going to get worse. You have to get down in a stance, scratch and claw. If you stick together and try to overcome a little adversity, you will be stronger for it. If you do, great things can be accomplished.”
The players, coaches and fans saw it firsthand. Ottawa has shown both sides of the coin all season. Ottawa gave two top-three ranked teams all they could handle in Hawaii. The Braves fell on their face in a blowout loss to Saint Mary.
“We have success and good streaks,” Carrier said. “That is why it is so frustrating as a coach. Why we can’t sustain that. When we do teams things and together, we are good.”
A big factor has been the inconsistent defense. Sterling shot 59 percent in the first half, but Ottawa held the Warriors to 35 percent in the second half.
“When we went on a little winning streak early in the year we held five or six teams in a row in the 30 percent [range],” Carrier said. “When we started struggling, teams shot in the 50-55 percent range. The reason we had a chance in the second half was brought the energy, we guarded and communicated.
“Against a well-coached and really good basketball team like Sterling, it is really hard to overcome that big of a hole we dug for ourselves in the first half.”
Carrier took a full time out talking to the players about digging deeper after Sterling went up by nine with four minutes left.
“It was a two-possession game with 2 1/2 minutes to go we had guys hanging their heads and slumping their shoulders and expecting bad things to happen,” Carrier said. “We know what we are trying to do. We have to do it with tremendous effort.
“We have get to playing for each other and Ottawa. I stand behind the guys we have in the program. They are not very together team on the court right now.”
Senior Corey Smith led Ottawa with 29 points and nine rebounds. Chase Dippel had 11 points.
Ottawa (8-13, 5-6) plays 7 p.m. today at McPherson.
Sterling (87) — Brown 12, Alexander 10, Green 17, Odomes 6, Smith 2, Stacker 4, Morris 5, Adesodun 16, Thompson 6, Swank 6, Dower 3.
Ottawa (78) — Smith 29, Lundry 5, Hasty 5, Rose 6, Dippel 11, Lyons 3, Lindsay 6, Falk 4, Feighny 7, Nichols 2.