Injuries shift role players from bench to starting lineup
Hunter O. Lyle— Sports Editor
With multiple injured players on the roster, the men’s basketball team relied on some of the team’s role players to step up and grab a conference win against the College of Saint Rose.
At the start of the game, the Owls were missing two starters, sophomore guard Ulyen Coleman and forward Luke Beesely, leaving senior guard Joey Wallace and junior forward Taurus Adams II to take their place.
“They stepped up. I trust them to start and they did their job,” said head coach Scott Burrell. “Our team is beat up right now, we have a lot of guys that are fighting through some injuries. Luke, Isaiah [McLeod], Joey, they’re really struggling with their health right now, but other guys did step up and make it easier for them. We’ll be good, if guys step up like that.”
The two new starters helped the team almost immediately. Adams powered his way into the paint and dominated the post, dropping 14 points in the first half shooting 5-8 (62.5 percent). Wallace also helped trail blaze offensively, shooting 71.4 percent from the field (5-7), including 60 percent from beyond the arc (3-5), and tallied 13 in the first half.
“I like to be the energy guy, the guy getting everybody involved, gets everybody going,” said Wallace. “Sometimes we come off to a slow start, that’s where I got to come in and get that energy up and get us going.”
Along with the scoring efficiency, the Owls also smothered the Golden Knights on the defensive end, and set the pace offensively by rapidly moving the ball and setting the pace early in the first half.
“Well, we definitely needed to [set the pace]. We need to win every game, and I knew Isaiah [McLeod] was struggling with his injury, Luke wasn’t playing,” said Burrell, “So, I knew we needed to have a big start because I didn’t know if we had the fire power to come back if they had a good start.”
While Saint Rose managed to cut the lead to eight with a three-point barrage nearing the end of the first half, the Owls came out of the break with a head of steam.
With the help of freshman guard Mekhi Warren, who dropped a career-high of nine points in the first half and continued to finish with 15 points and four rebounds, Southern shot just under 60 percent (13-22) from the field and made exactly half of their three point attempts (5-10), sealing the victory against the NE-10 rivals.
Warren said that while he was glad he set his own career high in points, he will not let numbers and stats distract him from playing in a way that wins games.
“I mean, it’s nothing new,” said Warren. “I have to do that every game, so I’m not going to expect [myself to set records] every day.”
When the time ran out, Southern had handily defeated the College of Saint Rose 98-81.
The Owls moved to tie with conference rivals, the University of New Haven Chargers and the Adelphi University Panthers, for second place for the Southwest Division of the NE-10. This win also landed them in a tie for the fourth best record in the NE-10 at a time when every game may prove critical come playoff season.
All but one Southern player, freshman Michael Mazzicato who only shot once from the field and once from the free–throw line, landed in double-digit points. Adams finished the game with 25 points and five rebounds, four points shy of setting a new career-high, while Wallace ended with 22 points and eight rebounds off 70 percent shooting from the field (7-10) and 57 percent from deep (4-7).
“We just moved the ball. We moved the ball, shared the ball. Kealan [Ives] had a great game,” said Burrell. “He found open guys, played unselfishly like he always does. Guys made shots, but he spoon-fed a lot of those guys for a lot of easy buckets, and they should be thanking him and buying him a lot of dinners.”
Photo Credit: William Aliou