By Justine Espersen
Despite their rocky start to the season, the men’s basketball team is ready to dominate the conference games as they stand 10-9 after winning three straight games.
The Tigers’ 7-7 record at Christmas break showed the struggle the team had in the first half of the season.
“It has been harder this season because we have less experienced players. We have to rely on each other a lot more and expect each [person] to step into [their] role as a player and as a team,” senior G.E. Bennett said.
Of the 18 players on the team, 10 are freshmen. Veteran players have had to step into leadership roles for the team to bring it together as a unit.
“Not only are we a young team, but we also aren’t as experienced playing together,” senior Jason Newkirk said. “It’s taken time for everyone to adjust and learn the plays.”
The team expects great things for their conference games, though. They have already won their first conference game against University of St. Francis (Ill.) and lost in an overtime thriller to St. Xavier University (Ill.) on Tuesday.
“I’m very excited about the conference games. I know we had a little rough patch, but I believe in Coach [Ralph] Hodge’s system,” Bennett said. “We can come out on top if we put forth extra effort and know how to close out games and collectively come together as a team.”
One advantage the Tigers have this semester is the return of senior Brandon Streets.He is already making an impact, averaging 13.5 points and 6 rebounds in his first four games.
“Defensively, [Streets] has helped us out a lot. His experience helps too with our team,” Bennett said.
Senior Antonio Marshall has proved once again to be a major component to the team as well, averaging 16.4 points per game. Fellow senior Jake Hasselbring has also proved to be a major contributor, averaging 10.6 points and leading the team with 6.8 rebounds.
The Tigers will face conference rival Robert Morris University (Ill.) at home on Saturday. Robert Morris is ranked No. 3 in the NAIA and currently leads the CCAC. Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m. following the women’s game.