Men’s Basketball falls short against the Yellow Jackets
Matt Gad—Sports Writer
With only a few games left in the regular season, the men’s basketball team was unable to complete the comeback against NE10 conference opponent American International College.
As only one game separates the top four teams in the NE10 Southwest Division, and with the season wrapping up quickly, the urgency to win was in high demand for the Owls.
That sense of urgency seemed to be stifled for Southern as the game started, as multiple early turnovers led to a 12-0 run by the Yellow Jackets.
“We started off early with bad energy. We came out flat and they went on a run early,” said senior guard Isaiah McLeod. “We were kind of in a hole from the jump.”
Even as the Owl’s offensive production started to pick up, turnovers leading to fast-break buckets by the Yellow Jackets kept the Owls at a distance.
“They weren’t doing anything to make us turn over the ball. When they got the lead, we tried to start going one on one,” said senior guard Kealen Ives, “It starts with me as the point guard turning the ball over… that’s unacceptable, I have to be a better leader for the team.”
While 11 first half turnovers created the large gap between teams, the hot shooting of American International extended it. The Yellow Jackets pushed their lead to 47-30 and finished the first half shooting 56.3 percent (18-32) from the field, along with 57.1 percent (8-14) from behind the arc.
As the second half of play started, Southern’s energy and effort looked to do more of the same as they committed two more unforced turnovers, allowing the Yellow Jackets to burst out of the break and score almost immediately.
The Owl’s began to clean up their act after the tough start to the second half, limiting their turnovers and allowing their offense to flow.
“Guys were trying to do too much instead of moving the ball and getting a better shot,” said head coach Scott Burrell, “The ball has to change sides of the court and make the defensive move, but if you try to go one-on-one, defenses collapse and you’re just not going to get that many opportunities to score.”
Even after the turnovers dwindled and the offense started to flow, especially through McLeod who dropped 34 points, the Yellow Jackets kept answering with a tough inside game and hot shooting around the arc, resulting in a 67-49 deficit midway through the second half.
After some momentum changing defense and hustle from the Owls, the comeback attempt began to come into fruition, lead by the red hot McLeod.
After back to back charges taken by Ives and forward Luke Beesley, the Owls offensive began to thrive through their defense and with 4:05 left in the game, the Owls were finally able to cut the lead to single digits.
With minutes left and the comeback still seemingly possible, McLeod stepped on the gas and hit multiple late game shots, shooting 7-8 down the stretch, paired with tough defense from his teammates in order to cut the lead to 77-81 with a minute remaining.
Unfortunately for the Owls, McLeod’s career night could not help them complete the comeback as the Yellow Jackets iced the game with free throws, ending it 83-77.
“We have to be better than we were today, we gotta be more focused offensively and defensively,” said McLeod, “We just have to play a lot harder, bring a lot of energy and play together and we’ll be fine.”
The Owls play at Adelphi University and are at home against Pace University, before heading into the tournament this season. Southern beat both teams earlier this season in December.
“It starts in practice. We need to be focused in practice, prepare like we’re going to win and we want to win,” said Coach Burrell, “And just try to win these three games and try to move up the ladder in the NE10, see where we finish and make the playoffs and see how far we can go.”
The men went on to play a gripping game against Le Monye College on Feb. 16, which ended with the Owls pulling out a 97-91 overtime win.