Men's Sports Sports

Second half surge not enough, men’s basketball falls to Wheaton

Luke Whitehouse

SPRINGFIELD – With about seven minutes to go in the first half of Springfield men’s basketball’s game with Wheaton College, Lyons senior Aaron Williams jogged down the court, doing his best impression of the ‘Jordan shrug,’ boasting a feeling that no one could stop him. 

And up to that point, he was right. 

Just seconds before, Williams, the Lyons’ ultra-talented forward, had just dribbled through two people and finished a highly contested layup through heavy contact.  

On the Pride’s ensuing possession, Williams dashed towards the hoop and pinned a layup attempt by Springfield forward Josiah Evely off the glass. 

Williams (right) pinning a layup attempt

“6-foot-7, 240 [pounds],” Springfield head coach Mike McClendon said, referring to the problems Williams presented throughout the game. 

Williams (literally) played a huge role in the Lyons’ 84-71 win over Springfield College in Blake Arena on Saturday afternoon. He totaled a game-high 25 points to go along with 12 boards and three blocks. 

“He’s versatile enough where his size and speed allow him to put the ball on the floor,” McClendon said of Williams, a native of Springfield, Mass. “The problem was he was getting a lot of second chance points and free throws.”

In the first half it was all Williams. He scored 14 of his 25, and played a pivotal role on defense.

The issue was that when the Pride sent two defenders after him, he would kick out to Wheaton’s group of lethal shooters – creating wide open attempts. 

“You got to live with something,” McClendon said. “We just got to be better at rotating and getting to those spots.”

Wheaton combined to hit six of its nine three pointers in the first half. 

As Wheaton’s offense clicked in the first half, Springfield’s didn’t. 

The Pride committed 13 of their 15 overall turnovers in the first half, as well as seven in the first 10 minutes of game action. That, combined with a 2-for-12 shooting clip from beyond the arc, put the Pride in a tough spot heading to halftime – trailing by 21. 

“It’s tough, man,” McClendon said. “When you have other things going on and your shot isn’t falling all at once, it all just piles up.”  

On top of that, the officials created internal frustration within the Pride, calling Springfield for several charges in the first half. Wheaton was already in the bonus with a whopping 13 minutes remaining in the half.

This had an evident effect on the Pride. That frustration was reflected on both ends of the floor. 

“‘Allow me to take care of the refs,’” McClendon said to his team at halftime. “‘You guys got to stay focused, and play through and manufacture some energy and motivation and not worry about the officials.’” 

McClendon’s halftime message was heard loud and clear. 

The Pride erupted out of the gate. Fifth-year guard Zach Faulkenburg created two quick turnovers to boost the Pride offense, which led the offense to put up the first six points of the half. 

Springfield nearly doubled its first half total (24), scoring 47 points while only committing two turnovers in the second half. 

“The biggest thing for us was to continue to attack, even though they’re calling charges,” McClendon said. “You can’t allow that to dictate (our offense), and I think in the first half we did.” 

Tre Hodge (13 points), Andrew Rocci (six points) and Panayotis Kapinedes (11 points) powered the Pride’s second half offense, scoring 26 of their 47 points. 

Although the Pride’s offense began to put up points, the defense continued to surrender easy baskets to the Lyons.

The Springfield defense tightened up on Williams over the final 20 minutes – limiting him to nine points and forcing others into bigger roles. 

One of those ‘others’ was Alex Carlisle, who picked up where Williams left off. Carlisle scored 14 of his 23 points in the second half. 

The Pride forced the Lyons into 23 turnovers, but they couldn’t capitalize as Wheaton won the rebound battle by double digits and created second chance opportunities.  

Despite Springfield facing a deficit as large as 27, the Pride showed fight and passion throughout the game.

“That’s been a culture character for us all season,” McClendon said. “Don’t quit, no matter the score.”

In the loss, the Pride were playing for a great cause – donning pink shirts pregame and playing in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness.  

Springfield (6-15) remains in search of a NEWMAC tournament spot, sitting at 3-7 with four games to go. The Pride will travel to Wellesley, Mass. on Wednesday to battle Babson College at 7 p.m.  

Photos Courtesy of Dani Schmelling/Springfield Athletics

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