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Published: Sunday, 3/16/2008

Findlay nips Lewis with tough 2nd half

SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

ALLENDALE, Mich. - The University of Findlay men's basketball team overcame a sluggish first half with a strong second to earn a 64-57 win over Lewis in the opening round of the NCAA Division II Great Lakes Regional yesterday at the Grand Valley State Fieldhouse.

The seventh-ranked Oilers trailed 25-21 at halftime but shot 68.4 percent from the floor in the second half to advance into tonight's 5 p.m. semifinal round against Gannon (26-4).

"The important thing is we are moving on," Findlay coach Ron Niekamp said.

Freshman Nathan Hyde was key, scoring 13 points off the bench, all in the second half, while sophomore point guard Marcus Parker scored 15 points for the Oilers (27-4), who shot 45.8 percent (22 of 48) from the field, including 43.5 percent (10 of 23) from 3-point range.

"We started making shots from the outside and that made a big difference," Niekamp said.

"I thought our defense kept us in it in the first half when we were really struggling and we did a good job slowing down their best players, especially in the second half."

Brandon Dagans paced the Flyers with 20 points but scored only six in the second half. Stephan Bolt, who averages 16.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, scored 12 points.

The Flyers shot 40.4 percent (21 of 52) from the field and turned the ball over 20 times.

Findlay started strong, opening an 11-3 lead in the first four minutes behind stellar defensive play.

But the Oilers had trouble hanging onto the lead as Lewis battled back on the strength of a trey by Dagans and a jumper by Dennis Thomas that cut the deficit to 11-8 with 11:08 left.

Those shots were part of a 13-0 run by the Flyers, who capped it on a dunk by Bolt. Bolt threw down another dunk moments later, soaring over the back of Tyler Evans for a put-back jam that gave Lewis an 18-17 lead.

Dagans made a layup and drained a trey to push the Flyers ahead 25-18 with 50 seconds remaining.

The Oilers went into halftime down by four as Marcus Parker nailed a trey off the glass as time expired.

"It was not a pretty second half," Niekamp said. "We rushed passes and shots at times and that hurt us. We finally started hitting shots and we picked up the intensity on defense."

Findlay shook the ice off its shooting touch in the second half as Evans hit two treys and Parker hit another 3-pointer as the Oilers tied the score at 32-32 with 15 minutes left.

The start was part of a second-half run when Findlay was 8-of-12 from beyond the arc after going just 2-of-11 in the first half.

Hyde and Evans hit three

3-pointers each.

"We struggled to shoot the ball in the first half but we got better looks in the second half," Niekamp said.

"I thought Nathan and Tyler did a nice job of hitting big shots for us when we needed them."



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