Findlay's Grant Niswander, center, is pressured by St. John's Jesuit's Austin Gardner, left, and Marc Loving during Friday’s game at St. John's. Gardner had 15 points while Loving added 12.
THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY
St. John’s Jesuit has lost one basketball game this season to an Ohio foe.
That came Dec. 18 in Three Rivers Athletic Conference play at Findlay, a 61-59 setback when Titans senior standout Marc Loving missed the only game of his four-year career because of the flu.
In Friday night’s rematch, it was the visiting Trojans who went home feeling a bit under the weather after a lopsided 73-33 loss at St. John’s.
The 6-foot-8, Ohio State-bound Loving was in the lineup this time, but the more profound change in the Findlay redeux came from the rest of the fifth-ranked Titans (15-3, 9-1 TRAC).
The guard tandem of junior Anthony Glover and senior Austin Gardner paced St. John’s with 15 points apiece, senior guard Tyler Thompson had 13 points, and Loving added 12 in a balanced attack highlighted by 53 percent (26-of-49) shooting for the field.
“We’ve really improved since then,” Glover said. “We’ve been working on things, like defense and pressuring the ball. It wasn’t like a revenge game, but we kept it in our head that we owed them.
“We treated it as it was like any other game. We came out and put the pressure on them, and tried to execute our offense. We did that and got the W.”
Good offense was half the battle.
The other half — defending the Trojans — was just as impressive.
The Titans pressured Findlay (8-7, 5-4) into 22 turnovers while committing only five, and held the Trojans to 39 percent shooting (15-of-38).
“I was real proud of our defensive effort the whole game,” Titans coach Ed Heintschel said. “Sometimes, teams let their foot off the pedal after a while, but we stayed with it for the full time.”
Findlay opened the game with a clear strategy to play a deliberate tempo that bordered on stalling.
That idea was scrapped quickly, however, as St. John’s got two early 3-pointers from Glover, who scored eight of the Titans’ first 11 points as they grabbed an 11-0 lead in the first five minutes.
“I figured they’d try to milk the clock a little bit,” Heintschel said. “They’re so good at what they do if you let them get their sets. But we pressured them and were able to force them out of that.”
By period’s end, St. John’s held a 20-8 lead, and pushed it to 33-16 by halftime.
The Trojans’ only counter for much of the game came from 6-3 junior forward Austin Gutting, who ultimately posted game highs of 20 points and 10 rebounds with sturdy effort inside.
When Gutting scored from inside with five minutes left in the game to snap another 11-0 St. John’s run, Findlay trailed 58-25 and Gutting had tallied 19 of his team’s 25 points.
“They took us out of everything we wanted to do with their pressure and trapping,” Findlay coach Jim Rucki said. “We came out in kind of a junk defense — a triangle-and-two — and they hit a couple shots early. Nothing we wanted to do worked.
“Their guard pressure was better this time. They forced us into a bunch of turnovers. We were able to handle the pressure better last time, but they’re really good.”
Loving, who notched 35 points in St. John’s win over Rogers on Tuesday, was content on this night with seeing his teammates cash in. He hit just three of his 10 shots from the field and grabbed five rebounds.
“Marc’s the kind of player who’s going to let the game come to him,” Heintschel said. “He will give the ball up to his teammates for better shots. “He and Gardner have kind of established that as how the team plays.
Marc has never hunted points.”
Another big advantage for the Titans came at the free-throw line, where they converted 14 of 17 chances, while Findlay hit just two of its five foul shots. The Trojans’ lone statistical edge came in rebounding (28-20).
St. John’s other two losses this season both came during its four-game trip to Arizona during the Christmas holiday. Both were in overtime.
Contact Steve Junga at: email@example.com, 419-724-6461 or on Twitter@JungaBlade.