Turnovers, missed free throws hurt SU men in 66-61 loss to Bridgewater
WINCHESTER — There were plenty of things to point to for why the Shenandoah University men’s basketball team failed to pull out a victory Wednesday night.
Like the 19 times the Hornets turned the ball over to visiting Bridgewater. Or the 14 missed free throws.
But two specific plays stood out, both because of when they occurred and the resulting momentum swing they sparked.
Down 59-56 following a three-point play from senior Avery Green, SU twice had the chance to cut it to a one-point game with dunks that had the fans at Shingleton Gymnasium screaming in anticipation.
And twice the Hornets failed to finish those dunks, with junior Xavier Alston missing on a two-handed attempt in the lane and Green unable to complete a slam in transition over a pair of Eagles defenders.
The two misses were as close as Shenandoah would come to rallying back as Bridgewater answered with a five straight points to help seal a 66-61 ODAC victory and send the Hornets to their third straight loss.
“I told the guys I appreciated their effort, you want to go up and dunk it and be excited, but our motto in practice is if you go up to dunk it, you have to make it,” said SU head coach Rob Pryor.
“We didn’t execute the way we’re capable of doing, us having 19 turnovers is uncharacteristic of us over the course of this year ... but there were some plays there to be made and tonight we didn’t make them.”
The missed dunks certainly weren’t the deciding factor in the loss for SU (10-6, 2-5 ODAC), but for a team coming off back-to-back blowout losses, the point-blank misses were especially debilitating considering the game was there for the taking.
The Hornets entered halftime down 32-30 but took their first lead of the second half on a 3-pointer from Green (game-high 21 points) at 39-38.
From there the two teams traded leads, with SU going up three following a Green pull-up jumper only to see Bridgewater (9-6, 4-3) answer with back-to-back 3-pointers from Kenneth Waugh and Tavis Stapleton (13 points) to surge back ahead.
Down 48-45, the Hornets scored six straight points, the last of which came on a follow from Alston (seven points and five rebounds), but again the Eagles responded, this time with a 9-0 run that stretched their lead to 57-51 with 4:35 remaining in the game.
“Coach Burgess drew up a couple of wrinkles for us to get some easier looks inside and eventually our shots started falling,” said Bridgewater junior Ed Reddick, who finished with a double-double of 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Down six and running out of time, Green, who scored 14 of his 21 in the second half, scored on consecutive drives, the second of which he drew the foul on and the resulting three-point play drew the Hornets within 59-56 with 2:22 remaining in the game.
Bridgewater would misfire on each of its next two possessions, but Alston couldn’t flush home his jam off a nice feed from junior Jared Carithers and Green’s dunk attempt clanged off the back of the rim and was tracked down by an Eagles defender.
“We’ve been in close games this season, so we should have stayed focused and kept our compsure and played better, but we made some bad decisions,” Green said. “I made a stupid decision down the stretch. I should have just finished the ball, but hopefully we can look at this as a learning experience for the team and respond better next [game].”
Having dodged a pair of bullets on the defensive end, the Eagles closed out the game from the foul line as Zach Hunter (14 points) came off the bench to hit six straight free throws .
“I told my guys last year we might not have won a game like this on the road,” said Bridgewater coach Don Burgess. “We knew it was going to be a tough game coming in here and I told my guys, I don’t care what level, high school, college or professional basketball, to go on the road and get a win in conference play is huge.”
A week removed from a seven-game winning streak, the Hornets looked good early on.
Senior center Kevin Lecsaint (eight points and 10 rebounds) scored six of the team’s first nine points to help SU race out to a 9-1 lead and even though Bridgewater would eventually battle back to go up 25-19, the Hornets closed the half strong with a pair of free throws from Green and a layup from sophomore Jimi Starks just before the buzzer to make it a one-possession game heading into halftime.
But SU was 6 for 15 from the line in the first half and wasn’t much better in the second half, finishing 11 for 25 for the game to go along with the 19 turnovers.
Pryor said there were more positives to take away from Wednesday’s loss than the previous two games — the Hornets had dropped back-to-back games to Randolph-Macon and Hampden-Sydney by a combined 57 points — and that the focus has to be on the next game.
“We’re just keeping their morale up and understanding that we have to go 1-0 on Saturday,” Pryor said. “Emory & Henry is a good team, especially at their place, and it’s not going to be [an easy] game. And I think the guys understand that and they’re hungry to get back.
“Last time we won three, we lost three and we won seven. And now we’ve lost three, so now it’s time to win seven again. That’s kind of the mentality we’re going to take.”
— Contact Kevin Trudgeon at firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow on Twitter @WinStarSports1