By Caleb Scott
ADA — The Ohio Northern men's basketball team dropped a tight 81-79 decision to Alma (Mich.) in their 2017-18 home opener at the ONU Sports Center on Wednesday evening.
The Polar Bears fall to 2-2 overall, while the Scots improve to 1-3.
Northern was led in the contest by senior Nate Burger's (Dayton/Alter) 23-point and 8-assist effort, while junior Ryan Bruns (Chickasaw/Marion Local) tallied 18 points, senior Joey DiOrio (Columbus/Watterson) scored 13 points and junior Daniel Donner (Bellville/Northmor) added 10 points and eight rebounds.
DiOrio's buzzer beating 3-point attempt nearly pushed the Polar Bears to victory as it bounced around the cylinder before rimming out as Alma claimed the victory.
The Scots were led in the contest by Kevin Gamble's 20 points.
Northern nearly survived a 20-4 Alma run over the final 10:58 of the first half as the Polar Bears made just 2-of-23 shots during that stretch.
"We went cold for a long stretch in the first half," ONU head coach Rich Bensman said. "But we compunded that by not being solid on the defensive end. We had too many breakdowns and gave up too many open looks. That said. I'm happy with the way we kept playing and had a good look at the winner at the end."
After Alma jumped out to a 6-0 lead, Northern used a 13-0 run led by back-to-back 3-pointers from Burger and capped off by a layup from DiOrio to take a 13-6 lead with just over 17 minutes remaining in the first half.
Northern would stretch the lead to 32-22 following back-to-back free throws from senior Travis Feitshans (Arcanum/Franklin Monroe) before a 12-0 Scots run allowed AC to retake the lead 34-32 with just under five minutes remaining in the half.
A 3-pointer from Alma would extend the Scots lead to 42-36 at the intermission.
Bruns came out firing in the second half, scoring 12 of ONU's first 14 points to pull ONU within 55-50 just under six minutes into the second half.
From there, the teams would exchange multiple buckets before DiOrio found Bruns for a mid-range jumper to pull Northern within 69-65 and force and Alma timeout with 7:17 remaining in the contest.
While trailing 81-76 with 30 seconds remaining in the contest, the Polar Bears executed a baseline out-of-bounds play that led to a DiOrio 3-pointer to cut the Alma lead to 81-79 with just over 22 second remaining.
Northern would get a shot at the end after the Scots missed a 1-for-1 free throw, but came up short as AC went on to win.
Northern finished 29-of-71 (40.8 percent) from the field, including 10-of-31 (32.3 percent) from the 3-point line, while the Scots were 31-of-62 (50.0 percent) from the field, including 13-of-27 (48.1 percent) from three point land.
AC edged ONU on the boards by a 39-37 margin.
The Polar Bears will return to action on Saturday afternoon as they travel to Columbus to take on Capital at 2 pm in their Ohio Athletic Conference season opener.