It’s Game 1 of a long season for the John Carroll men’s basketball team, but coach Pete Moran had to be excited on November 12th.
His new-look team put on a defensive show and offense followed with a 94-72 win over Wittenberg in Game 2 of the Kaulig Companies’ Tipp-Off Tournament at Mike Moran Court.
The teams played back and forth early in the first half until about the halfway point, when the Blue Steaks began using full-on pressing and defensive pressure to give the Tigers (0-1) fits. By the time the books went into the first 20 minutes, JCU was leading 43-34.
Wittenberg couldn’t figure out the defensive pressure from the Blue Streaks (1-0) early in the second half, and five minutes into an 8-0 start gave the home side a 51-34 lead. From then on they never looked back.
.@JCUMensHoops opened his season with a 94-72 win over Wittenberg from behind @j_higgins6 from @VASJVikingsAD and @lukechicone from @MentorAthletics … you are excited. @NHPreps @jcusports pic.twitter.com/wl9EYnTa8n
— Mark Podolski (@mpodo) November 13, 2022
“We’re happy with our pressure and our semi-judicial execution,” said JCU coach Pete Moran. “We still had a few breakdowns. It’s a process. We didn’t play a perfect game, but we’re happy with the result.”
JCU opened with Luke Chicone (Mentor), Connor O’Toole (Gilmour), Luke Frazier (Lake Catholic), Henry Raynor and Will Yontek as five starters, and that unit looked comfortable throughout.
“It’s exciting to see some of these guys cheering together,” Moran said. “I let the first group run a little longer just because they found their rhythm.”
Jerry Higgins (VASJ) – who is part of the second unit – provided immediate offense off the bench, scoring 17 minutes on 6 of 8 shots (including 3 of 4 from 3-point range) in 15 minutes.
“You really can’t simulate the intensity of the game, so it felt good to finally be able to go out and play freely in front of all the people and all the hard work that we’ve put in,” Higgins said. “We’ve been wanting this for months. It felt incredible.”
Chicone also had 17 while adding four assists and three rebounds. He was the only JCU player to play more than 20 minutes. Frazer and guard Chase Toppin – who played with Higgins in the second session – were the other two players in double figures for the Blue Streaks with 10 points each.
Offense hit nearly 100 points, and Chicone said defense was a big part of that production.
“Throughout the season, that will fuel our energy. To be honest, our defense would fuel our offense,” Chicone said. “That was our main thing, ball pressure up front with the guards and I think we brought that tonight.”
JCU struggled to make shots in the first half (14 of 32 out of 43.8 percent) but made up for it by scoring 12 of 14 from the free-throw line in the first 20 minutes.
“We get to the free-throw line because we get to the basket,” Moran said.
It was a different story in the second half, as the Blue Streaks shot went 19 of 26 from field (73.1 percent), including 6 of 7 from beyond the arc.
JCU plays again on the final day of their tapping tournament on Nov. 13 when they take on Ohio Wesleyan at home at 3 p.m.