HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – The Huskies have two games remaining before beginning Great West Conference play and they would certainly like to start with some momentum. However, the non-conference schedule has been challenging as Head Coach Ron Cottrell and the Huskies are now 5-9 on the season.
They have won 3 out of the last 6, the last game a 91-68 loss to New Mexico in Albuquerque. But, let’s be fair and note that New Mexico is 13-2 and the second best team in the Mountain West Conference.
Regardless, little things count when trying to win ballgames in preparation for conference play. Little things like playing defense, defending the perimeter, defending the paint, are just some of the more critical details and the Coach and players are concerned. However, they know those little things can be improved with hard work.
The numbers tell the story. New Mexico shot 73.3% from the field on 22-of-30 shooting in the first half. The Lobos shot 5-of-9 for 55% from the 3-point line in the first half as well. During the second half, New Mexico was 15-of-28 from the field and a sizzling 68.3% for the game. In addition, they finished with a 45.8% mark from the 3-point line.
Cottrell recognizes the improvement that has to be made immediately.
“We’ve got to get better defensively. We’re giving up way too many points, way too many easy baskets. When you have a team shooting 70-something percent in a half of a basketball game, it’s going to be really hard to beat them and a team that good on their home court, it’s impossible to beat them giving up those kinds of percentages.”
“We just got to get better defensively. We’re a work in progress and we got to progress quicker than what we’re doing right now.”
The Huskies are learning to become a team as they have 9 new players on this season’s roster. It’s taking some time to determine which player or two will emerge as the leader or leaders of this squad. Regardless, 6’5” junior forward, Marcus Davis knows they must play better moving forward than they did against New Mexico.
“I think we came out a little over-hyped and once they started getting it going we just really got down on ourselves. They were really athletic and we needed to get down and guard and that’s what we didn’t do.”
PANTHERS ARE NEXT
Eastern Illinois of the Ohio Valley Conference will be the guest of the Huskies at Sharp Gym on Saturday night. The Panthers are 7-6 overall, 1-1 in conference. They are the 6th best team in a conference that features 18th nationally ranked Murray State.
The Panthers boasts two players with double-figure scoring averages in 6’1” senior PG Jeremy Granger who averages 16.7 ppg, and 6’7” sophomore forward Alfonzo McKinnie who averages 11.7 ppg and 7.4 rpg.
Conversely, the Huskies boasts three players with double-figure scoring averages in 6’9” junior forward Art Bernardi, 13.3 ppg, 6’0” freshman Tyler Russell, 11.5 ppg, and Davis who averages 11.1 ppg. Bernardi also leads the way with a 4.9 rpg average.
Davis is very vocal and the Huskie who had a 30-point outburst against Dallas Christian back on the 10th of December. He’s knows what the Huskies must do against an Eastern Illinois team that has lost 4 of their last 5.
“Definitely have more chemistry on the offensive end and know what we’re doing out there. But definitely, we need to get down and guard more,” says Davis.
Cottrell gives his thoughts on his team and what they must do better against the Panthers that they didn’t do against New Mexico from a coach’s point of view.
“We’re not playing disciplined defense, we’re not getting down and guarding people and keeping them from getting the ball to the hole. We’re giving up way too much dribble penetration. And then we’re not finishing off and getting rebounds either.”
“So, from a coaching point of view it’s fundamentals one-on-one right now and we’ve got to get back to really getting down and guarding people and learning what our rotations are out of traps and things like that. We’re just trying to get a little better a day at a time.”
The tough non-conference schedule will pay off for Cottrell’s team once conference play gets underway. Meanwhile, tipoff against Eastern Illinois begins at 7:00 Saturday night.