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John Carroll men's basketball wins at Heidelberg thanks to Luka Eller's big 3-pointer

Jan. 24—Luka Eller hasn't shot many 3-pointers this season before Jan. 24 — four to be exact, making two.

In a tightly contested Ohio Athletic Conference barnburner at Heidelberg, the Lake Catholic graduate added to his total. He shot one, and what a shot.

Eller's swish of a wide-open 3 in the final minute was the spark for the No. 3-ranked John Carroll men's basketball team as it defeated the Student Princes, 76-69.

With the Blue Streaks up, 71-69 with a little more than a minute to play and shot clock winding down, teammate Luke Chicone of Mentor dished to Eller on the left wing. Eller did the rest with a shot with no hesitation.

"(The play) was supposed to be a drive and Luke passed it to me wide open, and I noticed the shot clock going down so I pulled it," said Eller, who finished with six points, six rebounds and three blocks, the last after his clutch 3. "Surreal feeling knowing how big of a game it was for us."

Said Moran on Eller's clutch 3: "We work on our big guys shooting (3s) all the time. I wish they shot them more. Great, clean look for Luka. Feet set. Great shot."

Chicone made two free throws in the final seconds to secure the victory.

JCU improved to 17-1 and 11-0 in the OAC. Heidelberg (11-7, 7-4) was tied for second entering the game but fell four games back of first place. Mount Union won Jan. 24 and remained three games back of the Blue Streaks.

Defense and balanced scoring was huge on the road for JCU.

VASJ's Jerry Higgins had his best game of the season with a team-high 14 points, three rebounds and two 3-pointers.

"Jerry had a great game tonight, especially defensively," said Moran.

Chicone had 13 points, three rebounds and three assists. Chase Toppin added 12 points, five rebounds and four assists and Will Yontek had 10 points and six rebounds.

After a 40-40 first half, the Blue Streaks amped up their D and allowed just 29 second-half points. The Student Princes shot 40.8 percent for the game and were just 7 of 22 from 3-point range.

"These guys really defended down the stretch," said Moran. "To hold a team to 29 points in a half is getting it done ... On the road, sometimes you've got to find a way to get a win. It was a gritty way to win, but any road win is a great win."

JCU returns home Jan. 27 for the start of two straight OAC home games — a first this season. They host Muskingum on Jan. 27 at 2 p.m., then crosstown rival Baldwin Wallace on Jan. 31 at 7 p.m.