The Ottawa University men’s basketball team will be a target as the season rolls along.
The No. 10 Braves are a high-scoring machine and sit atop the KCAC standings. Sterling — which has won just one conference game — gave Ottawa its best shot Saturday. It was nearly good enough to upset the nationally ranked Braves.
Ottawa held off the Warriors, 103-96, in Wilson Field House.
“We know we are going to get team’s best effort,” said Ottawa coach Aaron Siebenthall. “We are at the top of the conference. We are ranked in the top 10. All those things are targets on our front and back. We have to make sure we have our best effort to match it. If we do, we will be OK. Today was not our best effort.”
The coaching staff was disappointed in the defense and effort on loose balls. Sterling finished shooting 47% from the field and won the rebound battle 47-33.
“There was not a lot of defense being played in that game, unfortunately, at least on our end," Siebenthall said. "We have to be better defensively. There is no excuse. We have to show up and play. I am disappointed in our lack of effort rebounding, and they came up with way more 50/50 loose balls than we did. That is effort and wanting it more.
"We can’t take our opponents for granted. If you do those things very often it is a recipe for a loss. The effort plays we had been making, we didn’t. They need to get back into the swing of battling other people. We are in the middle of it.”
Sterling stayed on Ottawa’s heels from start to finish as there were seven ties and seven lead changes. The Warriors were within 96-93 with 1:07 remaining in regulation.
“We made shots and plays when we absolutely had to on both ends of the floor," Siebenthall said. "In our minds, we should not have been in that situation. We can’t give up that many points.”
Ottawa shot a season-low 24% from behind the arc but made up for it with a 56-34 advantage inside the paint.
“We did not shoot it particularly well," Siebenthall said. "If we shoot it better and play a little better defense, that margin goes up to 12-15 points. We are strong with the ball. We got a lot of points in the paint. We want to get to the rim and either finish or kick it out for open threes. We did not come up with loose balls on the other end.”
Sterling caused some matchup issues for the Braves. Siebenthall said they posted up Ottawa’s guards, and they had a 6-foot-10 player out on the perimeter draining threes.
“They do some good things,” Siebenthall said. “That is a team that will get some people in the second half of the season. They hit some tough shots.”
Ottawa continued its offensive balance with five players in double figures. Darryl Bowie paced the Braves with 24 points as he drained 10 of 12 free throws. Ryan Haskins finished with 17 points. Jaquan Daniels rattled the rim for 16 points. Jackson Mallory and Mason McDow chipped in 10 each. Haskins and McDow led Ottawa with six assists each.
Ottawa (15-1, 9-1) plays Wednesday in Salina against Kansas Wesleyan. Siebenthall said the Coyotes are exact opposite of Ottawa.
“They want to play in the 50s and 60s,” he said. “They want to grind it out, play good defense and beat you. We want to play good defense while playing fast and shooting a lot. We will be on the road, so we need to make sure our defense travels with us."