Rivalries are one of many aspects in sports that make them more exciting. From Los Angeles Lakers vs. the Boston Celtics, Michigan vs. Ohio State to the Boston Red Sox vs. the New York Yankees, rivalries are in every sport and reel in attraction from even non-sports fans.
However, rivals don’t have to be in just professional sports. Just a six-minute car ride away from Springfield College is the campus home of the Western New England University Golden Bears. The Springfield College men’s basketball team (7-10) welcomed the Golden Bears (6-11) into Blake Arena as they went head-to-head on Monday night.
Graduate student Josh Altman and sophomore big man Brandon Eckles combined for 46 points and helping the Pride to a 77-61 victory. Altman had 26 points including a solid five of eight from beyond the arc. Eckles finished with 20 points on nine of 12 shooting.
At the end of the first half, Springfield held a 36-33 lead over Western New England. At the end of the second half, the Pride looked like a whole new team on the court.
“We wanted to bring more energy (going into the second half), I thought the first game was kind of flat. They’re cross-town rivals, we needed more energy,” Altman said.
That’s exactly what the Pride did.
Within in the first seven minutes of the second half, Springfield went on a 21-7 run. The Pride were played lock-down defense, smothering their opponents, giving them no air and forcing the Golden Bears to shoot 34.4 percent from the field.
The only player to score above 10 points for Western New England was their three-point specialist Mike Gelineau, who had 18 points on 50 percent shooting. Aside from him, the next leading scorer was Gerald McDonald with nine points.
As the Golden Bears kept missing, Altman was channeling his inner Steph Curry by starting his second half with four consecutive three-pointers. Altman’s hot streak from outside in the final 20 minutes made a big impact in the Pride’s 21-7 run.
“I was making shots. Sometimes you just get into a rhythm as a shooter and whatever you throw up is going to go in,” Altman said.
When the defensive strategy was focused on covering Altman, the Pride looked to Eckles in the post, who also chipped in with five rebounds. As a team, the Pride owned the boards with 40 to Western New England’s 33.
“We’ve bought into sharing the ball, getting the ball inside, making the extra pass, and running some time off the clock,” Coach Charlie Brock said. “Eighteen assists on 31 baskets is really good, that mean’s everyone is sharing and everybody is buying in.”
Andy McNulty was the main contributor for those assists, as he dished out six of them while helping himself out by scoring eight points. Larry Piretra, Stanley Davis, and Steven Young all had three assists each.
Everything seemed to be clicking for the Pride. In fact, things have been clicking for them in the past week. They now hold a three-game winning streak and look to continue it as they dig deeper into NEWMAC play this week.