Men’s basketball wins fifth straight game in drubbing of Concordia
Michael Riccio – Sports Editor
The Owls, the preseason favorites in the NE10, are finally getting healthy and playing like the No.1 team in the conference after their fifth straight win.
“We have a lot more energy,” senior guard Isaiah McLeod said. “We’re playing together more and we’re playing a lot harder than we did and it’s really helping us.”
In the Owls (7-5, 4-2) 97-76 win over Concordia, McLeod led all players in points and rebounds with 26 and 10, his fourth double-double of the year. After scoring a season-low seven points on Saturday, he said his teammates did a good job of finding him today.
“They tried finding me last game but I wasn’t in a good rhythm,” McLeod said. “Today, I was in a better rhythm and they were confident in me knocking shots down.”
McLeod missed three games earlier this season because of an ankle sprain. Taurus Adams II, Issac Grant, and Luke Beesley have all missed games due to injuries as well, while transfer Isaiah Boissard has not appeared in a game this season and Joey Wallace did not debut until Dec. 1. Head coach Scott Burrell said Wallace, who had seven points, seven rebounds, and seven assists off the bench, helps the defense because of his size. The Owls have won all five games Wallace has appeared in this season, and Burrell said the team was missing him when he was gone.
“We have talented guards but they’re just smaller when guarding 6’4 guys,” Burrell said. “Joey helps us do that. He can play the three, he can play the four, he can play the two. We’re a talented team when we’re healthy. If we we’re healthy we’re going to be a tough team.”
Concordia (4-7, 1-1 in the CACC) took a 26-17 lead 10 minutes into the first half. C.J. Seaforth responded by making a three-pointer to ignite a 16-5 Owls run, capped by a layup from Adams II to give Southern their first lead of the game, 33-31. The Owls then took a 46-42 lead into halftime.
Concordia shot over 50 percent from the field and on three-pointers in the first half. Burrell said the Owls defense did not do what they needed to do to stop the high ball screen offense the Clippers were running. The Owls began the second half on a 21-9 run and took a 67-51 lead seven and a half minutes in. They held the Clippers to 2-10 shooting on three-pointers in the second half while they shot 53.1 percent from the field.
“We were getting buckets, we scored 46 in the first half, so it was just playing defense and playing with energy,” Burrell said. “Hopefully we can do that for 40 minutes when we get back from break. A lot of guys are thinking about vacation, thinking about going home, but we have to take care of business first and we did that in the second half.”
Sophomore guard Ulyen Coleman said coming out of the half, the Owls upped their intensity on defense and made sure they had their rotations right.
“We know if we defend, we can outscore a lot of people,” Coleman said. “We came out a little flat but coach said in the locker room it starts at the defensive end and then offense takes over from there.”
Coleman finished the game with 24 points and made five three-pointers, his third straight game with at least 20 points and five three-pointers. He said when he is scoring from beyond the arc, it opens up his teammates as well.
“If I’m hitting shots and [Isaiah] is hitting shots, then that means the whole floor is open for us to drive and kick,” Coleman said. “That’s what it really comes down to. If we’re able to hit our shots and get into a lane and kick out, it’s going to be a good game for everybody.”
For Concordia, Stephen Milhaven scored 17 points and Alex White, Jr. scored 16. Jesse Breeding added 10 points and seven rebounds. Beesley, who averages 10.0 points per game and 9.6 rebounds per game, missed the Owls’ second straight game. Starting in his place was Adams II, who scored eight points on 4-5 shooting and grabbed five rebounds. In Saturday’s road win against Jefferson, Adams II scored 14 points off the bench. Coleman said the players in the front court have done a good job in Beesley’s absence.
“Making sure a lot of bigs don’t get easy baskets, making sure they don’t get easy post touches, little things like that really help us,” Coleman said.
The Owls next game will be on Dec. 30 at home against Queens College, another nonconference game. McLeod said the team has to stay in shape over the Christmas break and do little things such as get shots up that will help the team get better. Burrell said in order to continue the momentum after the long layoff, the Owls have to realize they are only two games over .500.
“It’s great to get five wins,” Burrell said, “but we put ourselves in a hole and now we have to keep it rolling.”
Burrell said Beesley will return from his injury after the Christmas break.
Photo Credit: Matt Gad