The men’s basketball team has tied their best start in school history with a 6-1 record through seven games.
But the men have to sit on their only loss–a one-point loss—for about a month as they have a break until early January.
“The loss to Endicott is a tough one to swallow, being that it was such a close game,” sophomore guard Jaylen Owens (Cleveland, Ohio) said.
Endicott defeated ENC 78-77 on the road on Saturday, Dec. 7. The Lions outscored Endicott in the second half, but could not capitalize on Endicott’s turnovers or poor free throw shooting.
“[The loss] shows us that we can compete with anyone,” Owens said. “Endicott will be one of the best teams in our conference this year, and they are a lot bigger than us, but we played hard, and this loss will keep us hungry, and know that we can’t be complacent. We will come back even hungrier second semester ready to get better and learn from this loss.”
Fifth-year head coach Jim Aller attributes some of the early success to the team’s defensive prowess.
“I think we are a good defensive team—[we] do a nice job contesting shots and generating turnovers,” Aller said.
But the coach sees areas where the team needs to improve to be successful in conference play in the spring.
“We need to do a much better job rebounding at both ends,” he said. “We must also continue to improve offensively by concentrating on running the plays, setting good screens, and looking for the open man.”
The Lions, who lost 1000th-point scorer Chima Ezeigbo to graduation, have found scoring in Owens, the 2012-13 CCC Rookie of the Year, this season.
Owens has scored at least 20 points in five of the Lions’ first seven games. He is averaging 18.6 points per game, while shooting 44.1% from the field.
“I’ve just been more aggressive this season trying to make plays for the team,” Owens said. “It’s not all about scoring for me, it’s about making winning plays, and being aggressive. Having such good scorers and finishers around me helps open up driving lanes and lets me use my finishing ability.”
One of those scorers is Justin Wagner (Oklahoma City, Okla.), who shot 39.2% from 3-point range last season. But Wagner’s 3-point percentage has dropped this season to 27.5%.
“In the offseason, I really worked on getting my shot off quickly,” Wagner said. “After watching all my misses on film, I have realized that the reason I have missed more 3s this year than last year is because I am not getting enough arc on my shot.”
Wagner already anticipates that he can correct the problem with this month-long break.
“I will fix this problem over Christmas break so I can help my team win the CCC Championship this season,” he said.
Even with five freshmen and two new additions to this year’s team, the Lions are playing well together, as indicated by the team’s 6-1 (1-1) record.
“Last year, it took us a couple games to learn how to play with each other and gel as a team, but this year I feel like we are quickly learning how to play with each other and to put people into the best situations in which they can succeed,” Wagner said.
The Lions resume play on Jan. 2 at 2 p.m. with a nonconference home game against University of Maine at Presque Isle.
ENC travels to Curry College at 3 p.m. on Jan. 4 for their first conference game of 2014.