By Justine Von Arb, Staff Writer
“A-T-T-A-C-K!” cried the cheerleaders from the sidelines at the start of the men’s basketball game on Friday, Feb. 27 against St. Xavier University, hosted at McHie Arena. The Tigers listened, defeating St. Xavier 90-79.
The game started off slowly as the Tigers and the Cougars vied for a lead. Cheers broke out in McHie as junior forward/center Zach Wagner showed the Cougars that they were in for a fight. He stole the ball and passed it off to senior guard Austin Davis for a layup to tie the Tigers. Davis did the same ten minutes later after receiving the stolen ball from junior guard Alex Thorson.
The steals and shots were not enough to keep Olivet ahead of St. Xavier, though. The Cougars led the Tigers from 14:56 in the first half. Near the end of the first half, tragedy struck for the Tigers as junior guard Aaron Larson remained on the ground after a play, injured. A somber mood fell over the crowd as the clocked ticked down. At the end of the first half, St. Xavier led by 8 with a score of 41-33.
In the second half, the players came back to the court with focused energy. Larson returned to the court in the second half, opening up the scoring with a three-pointer.
The Cougars were eager for points and pressed hard against the Tigers’ offense, leading to an exciting game of sprinting back and forth across the court. In the second half, St. Xavier’s Stanley Moore stole the ball from the Tigers four times in just over three minutes.
The Tigers played a tight defense, though, making 18 defensive rebounds in the second half to the Cougars’ three. Larson led the Tigers in rebounds, making 9 of the team’s 35 rebounds.
The more aggressive defense of St. Xavier in the second half led to an onslaught of fouls and free throws. Thorson returned to the line time and time again – five times in less than a minute – making 9 out of 10 of his free throw shots. Larson and junior guard Reid Farchmin also went to the line in the second half and added 17 points to the team’s score.
Those 17 points were enough to tip the balance and keep the Tigers in the lead for the last 8 minutes of the second half.
The CCAC championship game against #18 Cardinal Stritch University will be held on Saturday, Feb. 28 at 4 p.m. in McHie Arena.