Braves coach expects 'high level' game against OKW

Greg Mast
The Ottawa Herald

There will not be any secrets in Saturday’s matchup between the Ottawa University and Oklahoma Wesleyan University men’s basketball teams in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

Ottawa University junior Ian Moore looks to finish on a transition opportunity against Sterling in Wednesday’s tourney victory.

The two conference powers are meeting for the ninth time in the past three years. This will be the third straight year the rivals have met in the KCAC Tournament. Oklahoma Wesleyan won the two previous tourney games.

Last season, they met in the title game and two years ago, it was a semifinal matchup, like this year’s.

“There is not a lot of scouting that needs to be done,” Ottawa coach Aaron Siebenthall said. “We know what each other is going to do. It is going to be a heck of a basketball game. It will be a high level game. Both of us were at the national tournament last year. We are looked at as two of the better programs in the conference right now.”

The Eagles are ranked No. 20 in the latest NAIA poll. Siebenthall said both teams have high aspirations each season.

“To be one of the best teams in the country, you want to beat one of the better teams,” Siebenthall said. “They are ranked and finished second in the conference, right above us. We split in the regular season.

“You build a culture. You want these kind of expectations. Our guys have that. With those expectations, you have to out in the work.”

The keys for success against the Eagles is playing solid defense and rebounding, Siebenthall said.

“They are really aggressive on the offensive boards,” he said. “They crash hard. They shoot a ton of threes. They drive really not to score, but to set somebody up. We have to really guard the ball. We have to keep the ball in front of us. We have to eliminate penetration. The main thing we have to do is we have to contain the ball. We have to guard the three-point line better.”

The two teams play similar styles and like to run and score in bunches. The two teams combined for more than 200 points on the Eagles’ home floor.

“It was a crazy game down there,” Siebenthall said. “There was a million points scored. We have to guard a little better. They are a team like us that can go on runs. They can score in bunches. We have to weather those. Make sure we counter punch when they punch us.”

Both teams have depth. The Eagles play two sets of five throughout the game.

“The second five traps and presses,” Siebenthall said. “You have to be ready for that.”

Ottawa reached the semifinals for the third straight year by playing one of its better overall halves during the second half of Wednesday’s 101-76 win over Sterling.

Ottawa opened the second half with a 26-2 run after leading 49-48 at halftime.

“If we guard like we did in the second half, we will be in it,” Siebenthall said. “Proud of our guys how they reacted after halftime. We guarded really well the first five or six minutes of the first half then we got away from that. We focused on guarding in the second half. When we do that we are going to score a lot of points. We actually slowed it down offensively in the second half to make sure we got good shots. We did and we made a lot of them. That will be a similar game plan for Saturday.”