Ottawa put together a sterling defensive effort Saturday in edging Tabor, 75-71, at Wilson Field House.
“We have been pretty good in the first half of the first two games, but did not guard the whole game,” Carrier said. “That was our focus. We were much better.”
Ottawa held Tabor to 35 percent shooting from the field and 29 percent from behind the three-point line.
The defensive performance led to offensive rebounds and good ball movement.
“We turned the tables on the boards in the second half,” Carrier said. “We were the more physical, the more aggressive team.
“Our guys stayed together and kept doing team things.
“It has been a few years since we challenged for a championship. We have had stretches where the collar gets a little tight and guys go off on their own.
The players are communicating better on defense.
“The guys are starting to talk and communicate [on defense],” Carrier said. “We are switching on everything. It gives you confidence and deflates the other team when you have five guys out there talking.”
Ottawa moved the ball all over the court against the Tabor zone.
“You can’t run as many set plays,” Carrier said. “The guys did a great job of moving basketball and playing inside out against the zone.
“We’ve played against a million different styles. We’ve seen man. We’ve seen pressure. We’ve seen soft. We have seen zone. There is not too much teams can do that we have not seen.”
Freshman Alex Hasty received his first start of his collegiate career. He had a career-high 12 points and six rebounds.
“He was huge for us,” Carrier said. “Since the break, he has really focused in on defense, rebounding and being a ball mover. Now the offense comes out. We would have been in trouble if he doesn’t step up. We are so thin in the backcourt.”
Kameron Lindsey led a balanced attack with 16 points. Julian Rose had 15 points.
Colin Nichols had 10 points and eight rebounds.
Ottawa (8-8, 3-3) plays Thursday at home against McPherson.
Tabor (71) — Thomas 21, Carter 2, Biggs 16, Smith 11, Samuel 7, Hopkinson 5, Loewen 3, Sauer 6.
Ottawa (75) — Nichols 10, Lundry 7, Lindsay 16, Hasty 12, Rose 15, Gant 1, Falk 6, Newton 4, Haase 4.