SPRINGFIELD — Thirteen minutes and 26 seconds.
That’s how long Springfield men’s basketball went without scoring a point in the second half of Saturday’s game against Clark.
What’s more wild than that? They ended up winning the game anyway.
It was probably the least-satisfying victory the team has had in the last few seasons. But in a season filled with so many twists, turns, ups and downs — the program will take a win any way they can.
The Pride defeated Clark, 61-53. Jake Ross finished the game with 20 points and 15 rebounds. Junior guard Trey Witter finished with 16 points and 5 rebounds. With the win, Springfield now sits at 7-12 overall and 4-4 in conference play.
“I think we have to grow up and live with the fact that we are who we are,” said head coach Charlie Brock after the game. “From the first half to the second half we got up big and thought we could do whatever we wanted and settle for long threes — and they didn’t go down. As each basket didn’t go down it put more pressure on the next one.”
The second half wasn’t great — that much is true. But the first half couldn’t have gone better for the Pride.
Witter imposed his will offensively from the jump. His shooting range forced defenders to respect his shot from beyond the arc and close out on him defensively. Once this became evident, Witter used a burst of speed to get around defenders to get into the paint for a layup, or dish out a pass to an open teammate in the corner.
The junior guard is averaging 10.1 points per-game this season and has seen his role expand since the start of the season.
“(Trey) does a nice job of being clever with the ball,” said Brock. “With him having the ability to shoot it it makes for (defenders) to have to do some things. He is working hard to take advantage of (teams) knowing he is a shooter and (knowing that they) have to come out and guard him (while he) penetrates and finding people open as a result. Sometimes he does well, sometimes not as well, but I know he is working hard on it. It has been a big impact that he is in there, can make the three and is getting better at penetrating and dishing.”
In addition to Witter, Ross chipped in 12 points and eight rebounds in the first half. Post helped control the glass with nine rebounds in the opening half.
The likes of Post and Kevin Durkin did a solid job of locking down Clark’s Tyler Davern in the first half — forcing him to go 3-7 from the field for seven points. The Cougars also went 2-10 from beyond the arc in the opening half.
But then came the second half.
Springfield finished first half with a comfortable 21 point cushion. But as the second half got underway, Springfield’s offense couldn’t produce any points.
Additionally, Davern started to find himself open in transition from beyond the arc and muscled his way into the paint for scoring opportunities. After shooting 20 percent from the field in the first half, Clark went on to shoot 42.9 percent in the second half.
Springfield went from shooting 47.1 percent in the first half to 23.1 percent in the second half.
As the missed shots continued to mount for the Pride in the second half, the building pressure could be felt in the air. The increased pressure caused the Pride’s turnovers to build, too.
“I think we got more and more nervous and more jittery — did not function well under pressure, which is something we have been working on every day.”
Then — finally — Post received the ball in the paint and made a shot in the paint with contact to break the drought.
It was just what the team needed.
“Seeing that basket go through gave us confidence,” said Witter. “We were waiting for that bucket. It got us on track a bit more. We were fortunate we played well in the first half and held out.”
As the clock ticked down to two minutes, the game was tied at 50-50.
Witter brought the ball into the paint and made a layup through contact to put Springfield back ahead. Ross made a wowing scoop layup with his left hand — plus a foul — on the next offensive possession. After the free throw, Springfield led by five.
Clark made a three-pointer to bring the game within two, but clutch free throws from Richard Jacobson and Ross down the stretch put the game out of reach.
This season — to this point — hasn’t lived up to the expectations of the program’s followers and those on the team.
Prior to the start of the season, Brock made it a point to emphasize that success doesn’t translate from one season and team to another.
Although it took some time for it to sink in, Brock feels that the team is starting to fully understand the idea.
“I think we have been beaten over the head enough with it that it is starting to sink in that we can’t expect it to happen,” said Brock on the team realizing that every game will be a battle. “We have to go out and earn it. That comes from practice and it comes from state of mind when you are playing the game. It also comes — frankly — from going 10 minutes without being able to score. Hopefully we can recognize the issues that took place and get after it.”
Witter believes the team has turned a corner in recent games and has realized just how much of a battle each game moving forward is going to be.
“We have learned that nothing is given,” said Witter. “We play one of the toughest schedules in the country and it is unforgiving. We play in a tough conference and every night we have to bring it. It doesn’t really matter that we went to the Final Four last year. It is a new team and a new season. We just have to fight and bring it in a whole new way, and we are finding our way. I think we are continuing to strive to play our best basketball at the end of the year and reach the goals that we want to.”