January 30, 2009

With range of problems, consistency needed for climb out of UAA cellar

The biggest problem for this year’s men’s basketball team is that there hasn’t been just one single problem from game to game.

Crippled by inconsistency, the Maroons (1–15, 1–4) have struggled in every area at one point or another throughout the year, sometimes undone by a porous defense, sometimes slowed by missed shots.

“That’s the frustrating thing for me as a coach,” head coach Mike McGrath said. “If it were just one thing, I think you could identify it and really try to fix that, but it’s been different things at different times.”

Last weekend, streaky shooting and an inconsistent effort on defense combined for two more losses. After shooting 26 percent in the first half against Carnegie (13–3, 3–2), the team turned it around in the second and shot 50 percent. Against Rochester (12–4, 3–2), the South Siders shot 60 percent in the first half and then 36 percent after the break.

The Maroons had a nine-minute stretch against Carnegie in which they allowed just two field goals, but they couldn’t close out in the final minute. Two days later at Rochester, the squad lost its defensive intensity and allowed the hosts to use a 17–2 run in the second half to take firm control of the game.

For a team that has just one win this year, much of that inconsistency has been a result of the team’s mentality during tough stretches, according to McGrath.

“We have to get past the mental block that our guys have about the season,” he said. “That’s what causes some of our breakdowns to last longer, instead of for short periods of time.... We get caught up into this mental disappointment in terms of where we’re at.”

Inconsistency has also put a damper on the team’ s development this season, as the lack of wins has attracted the most attention.

“We’ve continued to get better and continued to work,” McGrath said. “We are becoming a better basketball team in a lot of ways. We’re much better than we were in the beginning of the year in a lot of different phases. We just have lapses in some areas at different times.”

While the team seeks greater consistency, they’ll have to find it against two very different teams this weekend when they travel to NYU (13–3, 2–3) and Brandeis (11–5, 4–1).

NYU, anchored by center John Mish, thrives in the half-court Princeton offense. The result is a low-scoring team—the Violets lead only Chicago in scoring in the UAA, with 66.3 points per game—that limits opponents’ possessions through a methodical offense.

After losing three straight contests to open the conference schedule, NYU snuck past Emory and Case last week and enters this weekend riding a three-game winning streak.

Making the trip from New York to New England, the Maroons will have to switch gears to play a more athletic, fast-paced Brandeis team that boasts a five-game win streak. The Judges contrast NYU in both offense, which relies more on dribble penetration, and defense, which will feature more zone.

Scoring over 16 points per game, forward Steve DeLuca heads a Brandeis offense that has four players averaging double-digit points in conference play. Their high-powered offense is accompanied by the conference’s best defense, which allows only 62.2 points per game.

This weekend concludes the first half of the UAA schedule, after which the team will return to Chicago for two games at home.