Men’s basketball got off to a bumpy start, loosing four tough games in a row after winning the season opener.
But after winning two games in a row, the Storm are trying to gain momentum going into conference play.
Although they are doing some things better, they are still struggling with a few things that need improved before conference.
“We have to do a better job of taking care of the basketball,” Coach Charles Zanders said. “We are averaging 15 turnovers a game and you are not going to win games with that many. They aren’t even forced turnovers, it’s just us making bad decisions in transition or in crucial parts of the game.”
With ball security being one of their weaknesses, Zanders said that practices have been focused even more than usual on knocking down free throws, which they have also struggled with, and valuing the basketball.
“We are improving on valuing the basketball, but it is a slow process. In practice we will run drills and fatigue ourselves so that we will have to think and make good decisions when we are tired.”
Before the Storm’s last two wins in a row, they had struggled to get a win after the season opener, loosing close games and to teams they felt they should have beat.
“Overall the season is going well,” Zanders said. “Looking back we should have easily had a couple more wins on our record. We had a tough loss against Nebraska-Wesleyan, they threw up a last second shot at the buzzer and it went in to beat us. And we had a very poor game against Grand View, getting down by 20 in the first half but coming back within six with a chance to win it.”
Zanders said that it is a process that is a lot about learning. The Storm have a tough non-conference schedule which does not get any easier as they take on the nationally fourth ranked team North Central (Illinois) this Saturday, Dec. 8.
The team lost some key players from last year in Zack Barragan, who has the school record for most three point shots made in a career, and Cornelius Mosby who was the only player in the league last year to average a double-double, Stefon Brown, and Chad Boston. These roles are tough ones to fill and they are still working to fill these spots.
One of the roles that did not need filled from last year is that of senior Elijah Knox. Being three-year starter and four year letter winner, he is the leader on the team and having a good start to the season.
“He is the heart of this program,” Zanders said. “He knows what it takes to win. In most cases, we go as he goes, so it is vital that he plays well. The sky is the limit for him and I have no problem saying that he could be the player of the year in the conference.”
Compared to other conference teams, Knox is leading in steals and is second in assists.
Zanders said the Storm will continue to improve all throughout the season. And what will help a lot is the home crowd at games.
“Having the home crowd at a game is vital,” Zanders said. “The home court advantage is probably the most underestimated advantage. The guys love the crowd when they are cheering you on and the other team has to call a timeout. It is such a big factor. So I encourage the student body to come out and support both the men’s and women’s team because these guys have been working their butts off and would love to play in front of the students.”
The Storm have four more games to get ready for conference play. Their conference opener is on January 5 at Buena Vista. Their next home game is on January 12 against conference rival Wartburg.