Jan. 27—The John Carroll men's basketball train is full speed ahead.
Slowing it down might take a big-time effort by the opposition.
On Jan. 27, visiting Muskingum gave its best shot. Against the No. 3-ranked Blue Streaks — especially at home — that's not good enough.
JCU stormed out of the locker room and built a 43-26 halftime lead and never looked back en route to a 89-59 victory.
At 18-1 overall and 12-1 in the Ohio Athletic Conference, the Blue Streaks are closing in on clinching the conference championship and No. 1 seed in the upcoming OAC tournament.
With six games to play in the regular season, JCU has a three-game OAC lead on second-place Mount Union (15-3, 9-3). Also of note, Case Western Reserve — ranked No. 2 in this week's D3Hoops.com Top 25 poll — lost at the University of Chicago on Jan. 26, so an opportunity for Coach Pete Moran's squad to move up a spot is there.
The only blemish on the team's schedule is a December loss at home to Hampden-Sydney — the nation's No. 1 team in Division III.
Against the Muskies, the Blue Streaks played like a team among the nation's elite, and one that looks determined in front of their home crowd. JCU ranks No. 3 in the country in D-III attendance. Against the Muskies, it was a full house at Tony DeCarlo Center.
"Everyone wants to play in front of friends, family and alumni," said Moran. "I think it gives them an extra pep in their step. Today, we couldn't really get into a flow but at the end we were able to separate ourselves."
Any hope for Muskingum hanging around in the second half ended when JCU's lead was pushed to 20. It stayed that way throughout. With 3 minutes to play, the lead was nearly 30 at 83-54, and it was time for the backups.
.@luke_frazier5 wham with the left hand as @JCUMensHoops leads Musky 56-34 @jcusports @NHPreps @LCHS_Cougars pic.twitter.com/o7Nsf2RnXm
— Mark Podolski (@mpodo) January 27, 2024
"We're all grown, we're playing together, being mature, making great plays," said Lake Catholic grad Luke Frazier about the team's mindset. "We're getting better every game."
Frazier led the way with 15 first-half points and finished with a game-high 34 on 15 of 24 shooting. He also had nine rebounds, four blocks and four steals.
It's difficult to keep elite players down, especially when Frazier struggled in his team's last game — a win at Heidelberg in which he scored just nine points. It was just third game of the season in which Frazier was not in double-figure scoring.
"I felt great," said Frazier, who entered the game averaging 17.6 points. "It's great when you have great playmakers like Chase Toppin, Luke Chicone, Connor O'Toole, Gene Higgins. I don't want to forget someone. It's easy to get to your spots when you have people getting you the ball."
Henry Raynor was JCU's other player in double-figure scoring with 10 points and four rebounds. Point guard Luke Chicone of Mentor had nine points and five assists.
JCU next plays Jan. 31 and stays at home when it welcomes crosstown rival Baldwin Wallace at 7 p.m.
John Carroll 89, Muskingum 59