CINCINNATI, OH - Ohio Christian University opened the season in winning form on Friday night, defeating NAIA affiliate Brescia University in overtime at the Cincinnati Christian University Tip-Off Classic.
The first half was back and forth as OCU and Brescia had several ties and lead changes. The Trailblazers took a 7 point lead at one point but Brescia would not go away, fighting back to even things up 32-32 with 4 minutes remaining in the first half. Ohio Christian finished the half out in front went into the locker room with a slim two point advantage with the score at 44-42.
The second half would once again go back and forth with the Trailblazers striking first. The Blazers opened up the second half with an 8-0 run to jump out to a 52-42 lead. Brescia once again fought back with a 12-4 run of their own to get within one at 56-55 with 13:42 remaining.
A timely three point basket by Kris Carius and a pair of putbacks by freshman JJ Smith, would give the Trailblazers a big boost with less than ten minutes remaining. Smith tipped in his final putback at the 8:00 minute mark to give the Trailblazers a 66-57 lead.
The Bearcats from Brescia would once again rally back, this time with a pair of layups and a step back-three pointer in the final three minutes, to get within one of OCU at 72-71. A Brescia free throw with 14.3 seconds left tied the score at 72-72. OCU had the final possession, but a three pointer at the buzzer was just short, forcing overtime.
In overtime, it was all Wesley Russell as the junior guard stepped up big with a backdoor layup with 2:20 left to put OCU in front for good. Russell and Carius closed out the game at the free throw line, hitting big free throws in the final two minutes as OCU went on for the 84-81 overtime victory.
Russell finished with a game-high 30 points and 9 rebounds. JJ Smith added 14 points and 7 rebounds in the win. Evan Mills had 10 points and 6 rebounds for OCU. Ernie McCoy and Kris Carius both tossed in 7 points for the Trailblazers.
Ohio Christian is back in action on Saturday as they take on tournament host, Cincinnati Christian University. The game is set to tip at 5:00 PM.