The Ottawa University men’s basketball team is looking to put an exclamation point on the first half of the season.
The No. 10-ranked Braves play their final game before the holiday break Saturday afternoon at York. Ottawa (12-1, 7-1) is embroiled in a tight race at the top of the KCAC. Ottawa is tied with Bethel with five other teams within two games.
The Braves and York (9-5, 5-3) like to play uptempo, but Ottawa coach Aaron Siebenthall hopes to keep Panthers under control.
“We need to dictate the pace,” Siebenthall said. “Big part of dictating the pace is getting back on defense. We can’t give them easy buckets in transition. We have to make them earn everything you get. They are really athletic and big.”
Siebenthall wants to mix up his offense by attacking the Panthers in transition and with set plays.
“We can score in a lot of different ways,” he said. “We have to get stops.”
Ottawa needed another second-half rally to top Tabor Wednesday night on Andy Carrier Court inside Wilson Field House. The Braves stormed back from 13-point deficit to top the Bluejays, 98-86. A week ago, Ottawa rallied from a 21-point hole to nip Saint Mary by a bucket.
“You have to give Tabor a ton of credit,” Siebenthall said. “They are fighting their tails off. Tabor’s record is not the greatest. They have been in a lot of games. This was a trap game. It was before we go play York and during finals.”
Ottawa fell behind by 11 in the first half and was down 49-42 at halftime. Tabor increased its lead to 13 at 56-43 with 17:53 remaining. Ottawa answered with a 17-2 run.
“We have to figure out a way to be a little more discerning on our shot selection when our shots are not going as well,” Siebenthall said. “We have to pass the ball to the ball to the next guy. We need to be more organized within the shot clock. We did that as we had 15 assists in the second half.”
Ottawa’s defense was much better in the second half as the Braves changed their focus.
“Tyler Zinn is a special player in this league,” Siebenthall said. “We were so focused on Zinn and we had a lot of guys watching him and not worrying about their man. When you have good player like that, you have to focus on him, but you can’t have all your focus be on him. The guys around him helped him when we had three or four guys trying to stop him, he kicked it out and they made shots. They had guys that knocked down a bunch of threes that had not hit any threes stat-wise all year.”
Zinn, who scored 45 points earlier this season, finished with 34 points.
Ottawa outscored Tabot 56-37 in the second half.
“The biggest adjustment they made was they were going to stick together, play harder and battle on the boards,” Siebenthall said. “We got killed on the boards in the first half.”
Darryl Bowie led Ottawa with 28 points. Mason McDow netted 18 points and two blocks. Jaquan Daniels finished with 17 points, six rebounds, two blocks, and four steals. Ryan Haskins tossed in 11 points and had six assists. Kyle Patrick added 10. Jackson Mallory led Ottawa with nine assists.