CIRCLEVILLE, OH - Top ranked OCU took on NCCAA #6 Kuyper University from Grand Rapids, Michigan on Friday night and came away with a thrilling 97-94 comeback victory.
The Trailblazers found themselves trailing early on as Kuyper jumped out to an early 13-3 lead. Ohio Christian trimmed the lead down to six points but Kuyper would answer back to steal the momentum at the close of the first frame. After 20 minutes of play, Kuyper College led Ohio Christian by a score of 54-43.
Kuyper held on to a double digit lead for most of the second half and OCU found themselves trailing 84-74 with 6:55 remaining. OCU answered back with a Wesley Russell basket and the foul to bring the Blazers to within eight points with 6:46 remaining.
Down the stretch and with 1:23 remaining, OCU trailed 94-90 and Kuyper had the basketball. With Kuyper trying to wind down the clock, Evin Bartlett swiped the ball and raced down the floor for a layup to bring Ohio Christian to within two points at 94-92 with 0:59 remaining. On the ensuing possession, Bartlett had another open court steal and sprinted up the floor only to be fouled on a layup attempt. Bartlett went 1 of 2 from the charity stripe to get within one point at 94-93 with 0:42 left.
The Trailblazers defense would tally a third straight steal with 0:25 remaining as Kuyper lost the ball in traffic. Wesley Russell came up with the loose ball and assisted Evin Bartlett on a transition fast break layup to take a 95-94 lead with 0:20 remaining.
With Kuyper having the basketball and potential last shot of the game, the OCU defense once again came up big. Wesley Russell tipped the ball away and came up with the loose ball in the corner with 5 seconds remaining as the Ohio Christian defense forced a fourth straight Kuyper turnover. Kuyper was forced to foul and Wesley Russell sank a pair of free throws to take a 97-94 lead. Kuyper dribbled up the floor and got off a three point shot off at the buzzer but it was off the mark.
OCU was led by Evin Bartlett with a career high 38 points on 12 of 18 shooting from the field. Wesley Russell had a big game with 30 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 assists. Ernie McCoy added 8 points and Nic Baker added 6 points in the victory.
The Trailblazers followed up their big win over Kuyper on Friday night with a 95-53 blowout win over Crown College(TN). With the pair of wins, the Blazers are now 9-9 on the season and 2-0 in Mid-East Region play.
The win against Crown on Saturday is the 27th straight victory for OCU against NCCAA Division II competition. The 27 game winning streak dates back to March of 2012.
The Blazers are back in action on Tuesday when they host regional rival, Kentucky Christian University for an 8:00 PM contest in the Maxwell Leadership Center.