As of Wednesday, the Bulldogs have a five-game win streak, putting their conference record at 10-1.
“The Maryville game was a big step in the right direction for us,” Forward Elijah Hazekamp said. “Considering they gave us our only loss of the season, I thought our response the second time around was great and we showed lots of toughness. We’re certainly not happy about our one loss, but I believe that was a good wake-up call for us, and ever since we have been playing our best basketball.”
Austin McBeth, assistant men’s basketball coach, said the team hit a skid with its initial loss to Maryville University after winter break. Despite only losing the game by seven points, McBeth said it felt like a blowout.
With the University of Southern Indiana, a top competitor in the conference, being their next opponent, McBeth said the team had to reflect and refocus.
“We had a lot of really good conversations and Turner Scott, who’s basically our senior leader and the captain of the ship, said some stuff and was just transparent about how he agreed that we have some issues on our team as far as just not competing and showing up every single night,” McBeth said.
The ’Dogs then went on to beat Southern Indiana 76-69. Since then, McBeth said the team is more engaged, competing harder and rolling with a five-game win streak.
“I think it was one of those things where the loss in the long run probably helped us become the team that we need to be,” McBeth said. “It stinks that you have to lose for something like that to kind of get you engaged and spark you, but I think it did and things are going really well right now.”
Despite averaging over 80 points per game, McBeth said his expectations for the team are to continue improving offensively.
As the conference’s top contender, McBeth said the men’s basketball team needs to focus on improving itself, whether it is facing the worst or best team in the GLVC. McBeth said he doesn’t focus on being the team at the top but rather looks at how best to win the next game.
“If we focus on anything else besides beating the Lions, we’re not focused on the right things,” McBeth said. “With that comes the responsibility of knowing that you’re probably going to get everybody’s best shot each and every night because everybody wants to beat the top dog.”
The team only lost three players from last season, which McBeth said has provided a familiar team dynamic. With the foundational team dynamics set before starting the season, the Bulldogs share the ball well enough to allow six players to near double-digit scoring.
McBeth said the team’s defense the past three games has been phenomenal, and the offense has been finding its rhythm and chemistry. However, some aspects of the game, he said, could always be improved.
The men’s basketball team competes next against McKendree University at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 28. Spectators are not permitted to attend, but the game will be live-streamed by the Great Lakes Valley Conference Sports Network.