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No. 1-ranked John Carroll men's basketball loses at Otterbein

Feb. 14—The John Carroll men's basketball team's undefeated run through the Ohio Athletic Conference has come to an end.

The No. 1-ranked Blue Streaks lost at Otterbein, 78-74, on Feb. 14 — a setback that ended Coach Pete Moran's team's chances at going through the OAC a perfect 18-0.

Instead, JCU fell to 22-2 on the season and 16-1 in conference play. It closes out the regular season at home Feb. 17 against Capital.

Even with the loss, the Blue Streaks have already clinched the OAC regular-season title outright and will be the top seed in the next week's OAC tournament. JCU will host a team to be determined in an OAC semifinal Feb. 22 at the DeCarlo Varsity Center.

On Feb. 14, the Blue Streaks came out "sluggish," in the words of Moran and trailed, 29-16, in the first half before a late run before halftime closed the gap to 39-36 as the teams went to the break.

"Otterbein took advantage," said Moran about his team's slow start. "They shot the ball well."

In terms of the ramifications of the loss, JCU will likely fall from the No. 1 spot in the D3Hoops.com Top 25 poll. In this week's NCAA's regional rankings — a tool the selection committee uses to determine its tournament bracket — the Blue Streaks debuted at No. 1 in Region 7, ahead of No. 2 Case Western Reserve (18-4).

One loss by four points on the road against a solid opponent in Otterbein — now 17-7 this season — likely won't cause JCU to fall too far as long as it rebounds against Capital and takes care of business in the OAC tournament.

"It's a long season," said Moran. "It wasn't our night, and there's nothing wrong with that. The guys walked out of the gym with their heads held high and chests out. We'll be ready to play Capital. We want to continue our momentum. I don't think this was a step back."

In the second half, Otterbein had an answer every time the visitors made a run.

With 9 minutes to play in regulation, David Gentry made a 3-pointer that tied the game at 57-57 but the Blue Streaks never got the lead in the second half. JCU tied the game two more times but when it was tied at 61, the Cardinals went on a 7-0 run to push their advantage to 68-61. A Julian Heckman 3-pointer with 6 minutes to play was key in the spurt.

The Blue Streaks weren't done as a Luke Chicone 3 and free throw plus a Gentry layup pulled JCU to within one at 68-67.

The Blue Streaks had a chance with 12 seconds remaining and down, 77-74, when Luka Eller (Lake Catholic) got a steal but a turnover on the other end secured the upset victory for Otterbein.

Chicone (Mentor) led JCU in scoring with 18 points and a team-high five assists plus three rebounds. Teammate Luke Frazier (Lake Catholic) scored 17 with a team-high 10 rebounds and two blocks.

Gentry (11 points, five rebounds) and Will Yontek (10 points) were also in double figures scoring.

JCU played the game without starting guard Chase Toppin, who's dealing with an ankle injury. Moran would not confirm if Toppin will return Feb. 17 against Capital.

The Cardinals also had four players in double figures scoring — lead by Cam Evans (24 points) and Jack Clement (19 points).

Otterbein shot 52.8 percent from the floor (28 of 53) while JCU struggled at 41.8 percent (28 of 67), including 5 of 17 from 3-point range.

THE SCORE

Otterbein 78, John Carroll 74