The Ottawa University men’s basketball team feeds off its home crowd. The fans helped fuel the Braves to a big lead Monday over Bethel College inside Wilson Field House.
Ottawa built a 21-point lead late in the first half and led by 20 in the second half before the Threshers rallied within three late. The Braves withstood the rally and topped No. 22 Bethel, 86-81, on the Andy Carrier court.
It was Ottawa’s third straight victory over an NAIA top-25 team this season.
“It is to have this nice home court advantage we have,” Aaron Siebenthall said. “It is a great crowd. We hit on all cylinders in the first half. We knew Bethel would make some sort of an adjustment. They changed the way the game was flowing and played. We responded to it okay, but not as well as we needed to. We will learn from it. It easy when guys are coming back on you like that to fold up the tent, [but] our guys were resilient. We had to play some zone late. Whatever it takes to get the win.”
Bethel threw a full-court press at the Braves in the second half and forced several of the 17 turnovers. Bethel had a 15-1 advantage in points off turnovers.
“We told our guys ‘something different is coming,’” Siebenthall said. “It was not pretty at times, but the effort was there. They stayed together when it got a little worrisome. We didn’t make a lot of the right plays at the end. We were fortunate enough to battle it out. That is a good basketball team. We were fortunate to come out with a win. Getting a win at the college level is tough no matter who you are playing.”
Bethel heated up from the outside in the second half, hitting 8-of-18 shots from behind the arc.
“You get guys coming down full head of steam and they are hard to guard,” Siebenthall said. “You have to bring help and then they kick it to a shooter, who will make the shot. It was a necessary change [to the zone]. I am not a big fan of zone. It helped us win the game. We need to be more aggressive when we beat the initial wave. We want to go score and get to the rim.”
The 12th-ranked Braves were coming off a disappointing 74-69 loss to Saint Mary. Ottawa came out on fire, shooting 62 percent from the field in the first half en route to a 48-33 halftime lead.
“We needed to get the bad taste of Saint Mary out of our mouths, get some turkey and come back and get [a win],” Siebenthall said. “These guys have great chemistry. They share the ball well. All they are worried about is if they are going to get the win or not.”
Ottawa continued its balanced attack with four players in double figures. Darryl Bowie hit 10 of 14 shots en route to a team-high 24 points. Ryan Haskins and Kyle Patrick netted 11 points apiece and Jaquan Daniels tossed in 10. Jackson Mallory led Ottawa with five assists and 12 rebounds. Mason McDow filled the stat sheet with 10 rebounds, four points, three assists, two blocks, and a steal.
Ottawa (9-1, 4-1) plays road games Thursday and Saturday. Ottawa travels to Friends on Thursday and Avila on Saturday.
Siebenthall said those will be more opportunities to find success on the road.
“We feed really well off our crowd,” he said. “It is loud in there. We have to manufacture that energy on our own when we are on the road.”