In their second meeting of the season, Upper Arlington and Hilliard Darby clashed in a defensive battle that tested the shooting ability of both teams. Ultimately, the contest went in favor of the Golden Bears 54-36.
Upper Arlington improved to 14-0 overall and 10-0 in the OCC-Central Division while Darby dropped to 5-10 overall and 3-7 in the conference.
The Golden Bears leading scorer Brian Sullivan was battling the flu throughout the week, and he did not make his typical impact offensively. Darby coach Brett Norris employed an efficient man-to-man defense and patient offensive possessions that produced high-percentage shooting. The Panthers went after the Golden Bears on the perimeter that kept them in the game throughout the first half.
"Hilliard Darby's defense was good and they took many primary [offensive] options away," said UA coach Tim Casey. "They are tough and have some great players."
Though Darby has played stellar defense throughout the season, the Panthers lack a forceful offensive presence. Darby entered the game shooting 30 percent from the field and 58 percent from the free throw line. Those offensive numbers won't cut it in order to beat the offensively inclined Golden Bears.
"They are very physical," said Carter Smith, who scored 17 points and was the Bears' leading scorer. "They have great coaching and they know a lot of our offensive sets. They come prepared."
Upper Arlington led 22-11 at halftime, and it was Darby's Matt Allen who got the Panthers back in the game. Though only shooting 17 percent from 3-point range, Allen hit a step-up three pointer and converted a floater in the lane cutting the Bears' lead to seven points midway through the third quarter.
Matt Allen, who finished with 11 points, would make two more 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. The late offensive splurge by Darby was not enough to take out the Golden Bears, who broke loose after a steal and acrobatic hoop by Wes Richter, and another steal by Carter Smith who gave the easy assist to Sullivan for a lay-in. The Bears had three players in double-figures. Richter had 10 points, Sullivan 11 points and Smith had a game-leading 17 points.
"I knew [Brian] was sick today and I knew he was going to tough it out," Smith said. "Brian picked up a couple of early fouls and he went out so I did what I needed to do to help my team out."
"Carter Smith stepped up and his ball pressure turned the tide giving us a victory today," UA assistant coach Greg Allocco said.
The Golden Bears play next at Watterson on Jan. 31 before their next OCC-Central game at home against Central Crossing on Feb 4.