Men's Sports Sports

Blische’s career night not enough in men’s basketball’s loss to Emerson

By Garrett Cote

It wasn’t “Houston, we have a problem” on Wednesday night. Houston was the problem.

The Springfield College men’s basketball team had no answer for Emerson’s Jarred Houston, who surpassed his 19 points, 13 rebounds per-game average with a monster double-double of 21 points and 17 boards. 

If the Pride sent a double, he would either spin or pass out of it. If they left whoever was defending Houston on an island, he was either going to score or get to the free throw line.

Behind Houston’s standout performance and 18 more big ones from Max Davis, Emerson did just enough in the late stages of the game to defeat Springfield 74-66 in Blake Arena.

“Good players have this thing about them that, no matter the adversity, they’re gonna get through. He’s just a good player,” Pride head coach Mike McClendon said. “If he seen the double coming from the middle, he started to go baseline. Individually, I think he was the reason they were able to pull away.”

Wednesday night’s game against Emerson perfectly encapsulated Springfield College’s season in a nutshell.

When the team takes care of the basketball, they don’t shoot well. When they shoot well, turnovers plague them. They’ve yet to put a complete, clean effort together.

Although the Pride coughed up the ball only three times in the first half and finished with a season-low 10 turnovers, their abysmal 3-for-17 shooting from beyond the arc provided them too big of a hill to climb. Springfield suffered its fifth conference loss of the year. 

The Pride’s 5-13 record certainly isn’t for a lack of effort – as they’ve been in several close games down the stretch – they just haven’t been able to make the winning plays in crunch time.

“We’re doing a better job of taking care of the ball, but I still got to do a better job of placing them in the proper spots so they can play a little more freely,” McClendon said. “I think the seven (turnovers) that we had in the second half were just us trying to play too fast.”

McClendon and the Pride are the last group to make excuses - they’ll be the first to tell you. But with the changing of the guard from long-time head coach Charlie Brock to McClendon, who is in his first season, growing pains were a given. This was especially true knowing McClendon was taking over essentially the same roster that won only six games a season ago.

And because 14 of the 17 players on Springfield’s team have played in either one or no full seasons at the Birthplace, the lack of continuity and experience is undoubtedly present at times.

“The maturity (as a team) will just come with time,” junior guard Nick Bray, who finished the night with six points, two assists and two rebounds, said. “Our starting point guard (John Paulino), this is his first year, this is a lot of our second year, we’re still a somewhat inexperienced team. It just comes with time.”

With just under 10 minutes remaining in the second half, Bray drove left and pulled up at the elbow for a mid-range jumper. As the ball sank through the hoop - giving the Pride their biggest lead of the night at 55-50 -  Blake Arena was at its loudest. 

Emerson responded with a 10-0 run as Springfield was held scoreless over the next 4:01 of game time. The Pride never regained the lead. Stretches of inconsistency just like these have occurred in almost every game, which is something McClendon recognizes needs to be cleaned up.

“I told the guys after the game that I have to do a better job of putting them in position to secure a win like that,” McClendon said. “When we have a lead like that, I have to make some better decisions to help them not feel the pressure.” 

Springfield hasn’t been much of a zone team this year, but McClendon chose to roll with it on several instances. Emerson started off hot from downtown, and switching to a zone invites the Lions to shoot even more. The difference between a zone defense and man is the rhythm in which those threes are taken. After knocking down five of its first 12 threes, Emerson shot 4-for-13 following the switch to zone.

“We had to stagnate their offense somehow, so we kept throwing that zone at them,” McClendon said. “It kind of changed the points of where they were getting their shots from. They couldn’t play inside-outside, so it mixed them up for a while.”

Throughout the entire week leading up to Wednesday’s game with Emerson, Curtiss Blische heard all about the Lions’ best player, Jarred Houston. 

The Emerson center is widely regarded as the best big man in the NEWMAC, and it was Blische’s duty to shut him down. 

Houston’s success only told half of the story.

Blische erupted for 17 points, 11 rebounds and turned in the highest +/- on the team – hanging toe-to-toe with Houston the entire way. If it weren’t for Blische dealing with foul trouble much of the first half and during the latter portion of the second, his statline surely would’ve looked similar to Houston’s.

“You’re not gonna find too many guys who prepare like he (Blische) does,” McClendon said. “No matter the task, he’s up for it. He doesn’t question it, he doesn’t look down on it. You want him to battle with a guy, he’s going to battle with him. He was up for the task, and he had himself a nice game.”

Regardless of the scoreboard, Blische has constantly conveyed a tenacious effort this Pride team needs. They can always count on him to work his tail off in any circumstance.

“I just saw toughness tonight,” Bray said of Blische. “I mean, Curt, for our team, is our spark. He comes in and gives 110% in practice. Everyday. We already know what we’re gonna get from him in games, because he works harder than anyone. So he deserves everything.”

Photo: Nick Storlazzi/The Student

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