After a disappointing loss to Clarke on Saturday that snapped an eight-game winning streak, the Ashford men’s basketball team wanted to make a statement Wednesday night against Viterbo.
The Saints certainly did. Ashford scored 19 of the first 24 points, led by 26 halftime and won 59-41 in Midwest Collegiate Conference action.
“We were really happy with the way we came out,” Ashford coach Oliver Drake said. “We had a pretty bad taste in our mouths from the Clarke loss. It was certainly a game that we felt we did a lot of things not well that were under our control. It was nice to be able to bounce back and really establish ourselves early in this game and take control of it.”
Ashford senior forward Pete Tanzillo scored the first eight points for an 8-5 lead. Two of his buckets came on wide-open layups off passes from Matthias Burns.
“Last Saturday’s game against Clarke, it hurt all of us,” Tanzillo said. “We wanted to come out with an edge. Scoring the first eight points, I didn’t do it by myself. Matthias Burns was constantly getting doubled after he was making a good move. He just found me in the open spot. Offensive rebounding — coach emphasizes me doing that a lot because I’m not too bad at it — I found some points off that, too.”
After a missed shot by Viterbo, Ashford called a timeout and Devin Ehrich checked into the game. He drilled 3-pointers on each of the next two Ashford possessions. Ehrich scored all 13 of his points in the first half on 5-for-5 shooting.
“Devin can fill it up in a hurry,” Drake said. “He certainly is ready to shoot at all times. We run a few little specials for him. Devin plays with a ton of confidence. He’s a game-changer. He’s a guy you can bring off the bench and he can change the complexion of the game in a hurry.”
A key for Ashford offensively is establishing an inside presence, especially because the Saints move the ball well enough for that to open up perimeter shots.
“We emphasize going inside-out, and after that everything is a good look,” Tanzillo said. “We’re constantly harping on that.”
After Viterbo cut Ashford’s lead to 19-7, the Saints showed just how well that offensive strategy can work. Jason Landry drove the ball into the paint and kicked it out to DeAndre Lowery in the corner when the defense collapsed on him. A defender ran at Lowery, who passed it out to Javier Valdez. Valdez had a defender run out at him and he passed it crosscourt to Joseph Lightfoot, who made a wide-open 3-pointer.
Ashford dominated the inside play, especially in the first half. At halftime, the Saints held a 26-2 advantage in points in the paint. They finished with a 34-8 edge and a 17-0 advantage in second-chance points.
“Obviously that starts with Pete and Matthias,” Drake said. “Pete was outstanding on the offensive glass. ... That’s the way we want to play every night. We want to play inside-out. We want to crash the offensive glass. We really want to establish ourselves in the paint. I thought we did a great job of sticking to the gameplan.”
Tanzillo finished with six offensive rebounds, while Viterbo had seven. Tanzillo scored 10 of his game-high 19 points in the first half.
As important to the win was defense, both down low and overall.
“In practice, we fight so hard in the post that when we face other teams, it’s not as tough guarding other teams because of how hard we go in practice,” Tanzillo said.
“I think we ball-pressured them pretty hard,” Drake said. “They had to start their offense out quite a ways. We really had five guys jumping to the basketball. I thought we did a great job getting them to shot clock, and they had to take contested jumpers at (the end of the) shot clock. We did a pretty good job in the first half, too, of limiting them to just one shot. That was huge for us.”
The Saints, tied for first in the Midwest Collegiate Conference, need to avoid letdowns like they had against Clarke going forward if they plan to contend for the conference title.
“We just need to come out with an edge and that fire and passion like tonight,” Tanzillo said. “We had a great first 10 minutes. You could just see it in everybody’s eyes that they wanted to be out there. ... It was a very good first half. That was probably one of our better first halves.”
Tanzillo said they needed to learn to come out with that “fire” not only after a loss, and Drake agreed.
“Hopefully, we’re a team that understands now we can learn from ugly wins versus learning from tough losses,” Drake said. “That’s what we’ve talked a lot to our guys about, ‘Let’s be a program and a team that does a great job of learning from wins.’ Tonight there was a lot of teachable moments in that game. We’ll break it down with our guys. I think the biggest thing is just understanding every night in our league is a war. We need to be ready to go from the very beginning until the final horn sounds.”
ASHFORD 59, VITERBO 41
VITERBO (7-11, 2-4) — Matt Turba 8-16 0-0 18, Jasper Duberry 2-7 1-1 5, Alex Koeller 2-7 0-0 6, Jordan Laufenberg 2-7 0-0 6, Cole Lewis 1-6 0-0 2, Joshua Kennedy 0-0 0-0 0, Tyler Mancl 0-1 0-0 0, Sekou Moore 1-1 0-0 2, Evan Dreger 0-0 0-0 0, Jarrett Svestka 0-1 0-0 0, Alex Brooks 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 17-47 1-1 41.
ASHFORD (12-6, 4-2) — Jonathan Wyatt 0-5 0-0 0, Javier Valdez 3-8 0-0 7, Jason Landry 1-5 2-3 4, Matthias Burns 3-4 1-2 7, Pete Tanzillo 7-14 5-5 19, Mitch Jankowski 0-0 0-0 0, Joseph Lightfoot 2-4 0-0 5, DeAndre Lowery 0-0 0-0 0, Devin Ehrich 5-9 0-0 13, Vesteinn Sveinsson 2-2 0-0 4, Brandon Weston 0-0 0-0 0, Tevien Pinckney 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-51 8-10 59.
Halftime — Ashford 44, Viterbo 18. 3-point goals — Viterbo 6-19 (Koeller 2-3, Laufenberg 2-5, Turba 2-6, Mancl 0-1, Lewis 0-2, Duberry 0-2); Ashford 5-19 (Ehrich 3-7, Lightfoot 1-3, Valdez 1-4, Wyatt 0-5). Total fouls — Viterbo 11; Ashford 9. Fouled out — none. Rebounds — Viterbo 23 (Lewis 7); Ashford 37 (Tanzillo 8, Wyatt 6). Assists — Viterbo 11 (Koeller 4); Ashford 14 (Valdez 4). Steals — Viterbo 6 (Turba 3); Ashford 8 (Sveinsson 3). Blocks — Viterbo 3 (Lewis 2). Turnovers — Viterbo 17; Ashford 13.