Men’s basketball drops two in a row

By Pat Jameson

Allegheny Men’s basketball squared off against the Wittenberg Tigers this past Saturday, losing by a final score of 43-61.

Wittenberg (14-4, 8-2 NCAC) held Allegheny to their lowest point total yet this season and stifled the Gators offense in a tight defensive battle.

“We struggled to score but I think that is a testament to Witt’s physicality of defense,” said Gator head coach James Driggs. “I thought their physicality on the defensive end really bothered us.”

Wittenberg jumped ahead 15-6 with 11 minutes remaining and maintained a large lead throughout most of the first half. The Gators pulled to within seven after a Brandon Smith, ’15, layup and two subsequent free throws. However, Allegheny was unable to capitalize and headed into halftime down 18-29.

The second half was more of the same for the Gators, as Wittenberg refused to relinquish their lead. The Tigers were ahead by 20 points for most of the half and finished the game with a final score of 43-61.

While the Gators had some success keeping Wittenberg’s offense under control, their inability to score points doomed the team’s chances for a win.

“I think we executed excellently on defense,” said Stanko. “Ultimately it came down to the fact that shots weren’t falling. We had some great looks that just didn’t go that we are used to making being one of the most efficient teams in the conference.”

Stanko led the Gators with 10 points while Smith, the reigning Allegheny Athlete of the Week, added nine of his own.

“It feels good,” Smith said of winning the award. “Wish we could have won our games this week. It would feel better but still feels good nonetheless.”

Coach Driggs complimented Smith’s play in recent weeks.

“Brandon has played very well these last 4-5 games,” Driggs said. “He’s gotten better.  He’s also doing a better job defensively. We need him to be good for us.”

Wednesday night against Hiram College was a much closer game for the Gators, even if the end results were ultimately the same. Allegheny battled the Terriers until the final buzzer, losing at the last second for a final score of 68-70.

Stanko, who battled an ankle injury early in the year, exploded for a game high 21 points while adding five rebounds. Josh Valentic, ’14, notched 15 points of his own while D’Andre Corbin, ’14, and Smith scored nine and eight points respectively. Smith matched his scoring total with eight rebounds as well.

Allegheny played Hiram tough through the first half, trading scores with the Terriers back and forth. Hiram pulled ahead 27-18 with eight minutes remaining but a slew of Valentic points closed the gap for the Gators. Hiram went ahead by nine with two minutes to go before a Corbin layup made it 33-39 at the half.

Valentic hit a three pointer right after halftime and the Gators found renewed life. At one point Hiram led by 56-49, but Allegheny refused to quit, as back to back Smith scores narrowed the gap to one.

With four minutes remaining, Stanko went on a tear, dropping four points in 30 seconds. Freshman Sam Calhoun’s subsequent layup tied the game at 63.

The two teams traded scores over the final two minutes before two Valentic free throws made it a 68-68 game with 30 seconds remaining.

Hiram’s Chris Zurowski shot with three seconds left fell short, but Zurowski was able to snag the ensuing rebound. His buzzer beater jumper fell through and dashed the Gators’ chances for victory, ending the game 70-68.

“We have to start finishing games,” said Smith after the loss. “In all of our games we have been leading at some point. However, we go through phases of the game where we have mental breakdowns. Changing this will ultimately help us win more games. Games we should win and achieve our goal of making the playoffs.”

Stanko emphasized the need for improvement on the defensive side of the ball.

“I feel that heading down the stretch we need to continue to improve defensively,” said Stanko. “We need to focus on the little things late in games because each game we play comes down to one or two possessions each way.”

The Gators next game is this Saturday at home versus the Kenyon Lords. Tip-off is at 3 p.m.

 

Bobby Theiss, ‘14, fights for possesion of the ball at the Gator’s game against Wittenberg on Sat. Jan. 25, 2014 in the Wise Center. The game ended in a loss for the Gators, 43 to 63 CAITIE McMEKIN/THE CAMPUS
Bobby Theiss, ‘14, fights for possesion of the ball at the Gator’s game against Wittenberg on Sat. Jan. 25, 2014 in
the Wise Center. The game ended in a loss for the Gators, 43 to 63
CAITIE McMEKIN/THE CAMPUS