by Tim Miller
After upsetting No. 9 ranked Findlay on Dec. 1, the Cedarville Yellow Jackets have an opportunity to sweep the Oilers this Thursday.
Head coach Pat Estepp said Findlay hasn’t implemented many changes in its scheme since their first meeting, so the challenge on Thursday will be beating a team for a second time that rarely loses twice to the same team in a season.
Now the No. 14 team in the nation, Findlay is an impressive 16-3 and is tied for first in the G-MAC with a 10-2 conference record.
The Yellow Jackets are riding a four-game winning streak and sit right behind G-MAC leaders Findlay and Hillsdale with a 9-3 conference record. With a win, Cedarville would tie Findlay’s conference mark and own the outright tiebreaker thanks to swiping both matchups against the Oilers.
Cedarville and Findlay are the top two teams in the G-MAC in field goal percentage and 3-point percentage, and are even in rebounding margin. The Oilers are 8-2 in their last 10 games, with eight of those matchups coming in conference. The Yellow Jackets are 6-4 in their last 10 games, including losses in three of their last four away games.
The hosting Oilers enjoy a 9-1 record at home this season. Their only home loss came via an 11-point slip up against Hillsdale on Jan. 19. Cedarville has struggled away from the Callan Athletic Center this season, stumbling to a 3-5 away mark.
Cedarville will be tasked with shutting down the G-MAC’s fifth-leading scorer in senior forward Alex White (17.4 points per game). The Yellow Jackets were successful in stifling White in their first matchup, as the 6-foot-7 postman scored 11 points which tied for his fourth-lowest total of the season.
Cedarville continues to enjoy the services of G-MAC Player of the Week Conner TenHove. TenHove has gotten hot at the right time and is right behind White as the conference’s sixth-best scorer with 16.7 points per game. Last week, the sophomore averaged 19.5 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game. He’s also lethal from the charity stripe, tossing in 49 of his 51 (96 percent) of his tries this season.
The implications of this game are huge, as a win would give Cedarville a real shot of hosting the G-MAC Tournament in March. The Yellow Jackets have never hosted the conference tournament, and homecourt advantage could be extremely helpful if Cedarville were to take on the likes of Findlay or Hillsdale.
Estepp said he’s working with his guys to find ways to score, but recognizes the Yellow Jackets will have to be gritty against the Oilers.
Cedarville’s schedule is grueling this week, as they’ll travel to Hillsdale on Saturday after meeting with Findlay. If the Yellow Jackets can upset Findlay, they’ll have to pull off another strenuous victory over the Chargers who own the longest active winning streak in the conference at six games. Cedarville lost to Hillsdale on Nov. 29, 74-66, in the teams’ only meeting this season.
From there, the Yellow Jackets will travel south for matchups with bottom dwellers Kentucky Wesleyan and Trevecca Nazarene, before returning back to Callan on Feb. 16.
The Yellow Jackets will tip off with the Oilers at 7:45 p.m., and the game can be streamed online from the official site of the Cedarville Yellow Jackets.
Summary: Cedarville has struggled with inconsistency in the past couple years, but the Yellow Jackets have a plethora of weapons this season in TenHove, Branden Maughmer, Grant Zawadzki, and Colton Linkous. The Yellow Jackets’ support from freshmen Quinton Green, Isaiah Speelman, and Kollin Van Horn gives Cedarville added depth that it hasn’t seen for a while.
Findlay is nationally ranked and a perennial powerhouse. The Oilers are primed to play in big games and will have Croy Gymnasium rocking, which gives Findlay a slight edge. Coach Estepp said he recognizes how tough it is to beat Findlay, especially when the Oilers have their home crowd supporting them.
In their last matchup, Cedarville held Findlay to just 40 percent shooting from the field and 24 percent from deep. It’s hard to sustain that level of defensive efficiency, and a plus-11 rebounding margin seems unlikely.
There’s no reason why Cedarville can’t keep this game competitive for 40 minutes. However, with a team as talented as Findlay, it is crucial that Cedarville protect the basketball on the offensive end and win the rebounding battle.
The team with more rebounds at the final buzzer is likely to come away with the dub, as hustle points are crucial for two evenly matched teams.
Tim Miller is a junior marketing major and sports editor for Cedars. He enjoys having a baby face, knowing too much about supplemental insurance, and striving to perfect the optimal combination of Dwight Schrute and Ron Swanson.