Over the weekend of fifth block break, the men’s basketball team hosted Southwestern and Texas Lutheran at home, ending their regular season with 9-2 record at Reid Arena.
According to Assistant Coach Wes Kosel, playing in the gym that they practice in gives the team a sense of confidence and comfort.
“In addition, playing at altitude is a great home-court advantage for us because we have been able to wear teams down using our depth at home,” Kosel said. “The numbers don’t lie; we compiled a [stellar] record at home this season.”
Although the team lost to Texas Lutheran by only three points on Sunday after taking them to overtime, they dominated Southwestern Friday night with a win, 65-59.
First-year John Hatch attributes the strong end to the season to the team’s ability to play as a unit and execute both their defense and offense with little error.
“We fought hard and proved we could compete with anyone by beating the third-ranked team in conference and taking the 2nd ranked team to overtime,” said Hatch.
Kosel noted that the team matched up very well against both Southwestern and Texas Lutheran due to their height and length advantage on the court.
“Southwestern and TLU are both good shooting teams from three-point range, so we utilized our defense to make them shoot tough shots over our long defenders,” said Kosel.
According to Kosel, highlights from the weekend included Russell Clark’s incredible dunks over Southwestern and Justin Berardino’s “clutch” shot at the end of regulation against TLU to send it into overtime.
“With Sunday being the last home game for our four seniors, it was really special honoring them for their contributions to the program,” Kosel said. “We also had a senior dinner to further honor the senior group. Family and friends all came, and it was a special evening.”
Ending the regular season with games against two major teams in the conference has the team fired up to continue their season. Their goals include winning the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) conference tournament and then making some noise in the NCAA, according to Hatch. But for now, the team needs to focus on staying positive.
“A lot of times we get too down on ourselves for one bad play,” Hatch said. “If we can learn to move on after each play and only focus on the present, then we become a great team.”
Leading up to this point in the season, the team has focused on being efficient on both offense and defense. According to Kosel, even though they want practice to be intense, they don’t want to wear the players out at this point in the season, so it’s important to keep an eye out for the players’ health. Hatch said that the team is determined to keep practicing hard, though.
“If we focus on what we can do to get better every day in practice then we put ourselves in the best position to perform well come game time,” Hatch said.
“Once we know what team we draw for the tournament, we will spend a great deal of time preparing for that team’s offensive and defensive schemes,” Kosel said.
Though the overall season record wasn’t what the team initially hoped for, they have shown many glimpses of great basketball, according to Kosel, and have a great shot at winning three games in the conference tournament and taking the SCAC title.
“We believe that the only thing that can stop us from winning a title is ourselves,” Hatch agreed.
With only several more weeks until the official end of the season, the team is dedicated to improving the speed of play, executing plays without error, and most of all continuing to have each others backs on and off the court.
“Anyone on the team or associated with it will tell you that we are a family,” Hatch said. “I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to be around.”