Scoring surge haults in Men’s Basketball losses

Two weeks ago, Colby Men’s Basketball were owners of a season-high three game winning streak which featured a victory over rival Bowdoin and dismantlements of Southern Maine and Dean. The offense was flying high as the Mules averaged just north of 90 points per game over that span. Forward Patrick Stewart ’16 credited the uptick in offense to the team playing a full 40 minutes and a better offensive pace.

The team hoped that the scoring surge would carry on into this past weekend. Colby’s first test came when they hosted the 16th-ranked Middlebury on Friday night, seeking their second win in conference play. They played catch-up for most of the first half and trailed 44-32 going into the break. But the home team refused to give up, and came out firing in the second half, fueled by Stewart’s game-high 18 second-half points. They were able to erase the deficit and held the lead with over five minutes to play, but the Panthers finished the game on an 18-7 run to put-down any chance of a Mules’ upset.

Following the loss, the team identified their next game against Hamilton as a must win. “Our morale changed to that of ‘win to survive,’” guard Tyler Williams ’20 said. With three games left in their conference schedule and two games behind the eight-seed for the NESCAC playoffs, a loss to the Continentals would result in the Mules being eliminated from the playoff picture. The game was off to a good start as the team earned a quick 10-4 lead. Colby’s half-court trap gave Hamilton trouble early on, but once the visitors started to slow down their play, they began to see results. A strong mid-range shooting performance brought Hamilton back into the game, and they led the rest of the half. To try to close the gap before halftime, Colby employed a 2-3 zone but were quick to abandon it after conceding back-to-back three-pointers. The Mules responded by using their trap to force three straight turnovers, scoring off of two of them to trim Hamilton’s lead to 36-35 with 20 minutes of the game left to play.

In the Colby locker room halftime, they knew momentum was on their side. “Morale was high in the locker room, and we were very focused on coming out to win in the second half,” Stewart said. Stewart did his part to help the effort, scoring Colby’s first four points of the half to give them a 39-38 lead. That was the last time, however, that the scoreboard would tilt in the Mules’ favor. Immediately after Stewart’s go-ahead bucket, Hamilton rallied with an 11-0 run to regain momentum. Colby fought hard to get back into the game, but their shooting touch was off as they only managed to sink two of the 12 three-pointers that they hoisted up in the second half. In the end, an inability to capitalize on turnovers (forced 22 but only 14 points off of them) and getting beat on the boards (out-rebounded 34-26) did Colby in and extinguished any hope of a playoff berth.

The Mules next game was a 89-69 loss to Husson. Hopefully the team will bounce back this weekend as they finish their season with a pair of NESCAC match-ups. They make the trek to New London on Friday to face Connecticut College before traveling to Wesleyan on Saturday. Don’t expect the team’s mindset to change, however, now that they can’t make the playoffs. “I believe that our focus will remain intense and that we will continue to build towards our goal of having a championship level team,” Stewart said. Williams backed that up saying, “The end of this year will establish habits that will carry over into next year and the rest of our careers.” Colby’s 2016-17 season may conclude on Saturday, but the aspirations of bringing a NESCAC title back to Waterville never end.

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