By Chris Gionta
The Springfield College men’s basketball team defeated Clark University on Saturday at Blake Arena by the score of 82-70.
After beginning the season with a 2-9 record, Springfield has turned the tides on their season resumé with three victories in their last four games. After the Pride’s complete team victory over Clark, Springfield head coach Charlie Brock credited the time and experience his young team has gained thus far this season.
“(I think our recent success has been because of) just time,” said Brock. “We suffered early. We played a great schedule early, and we weren’t ready to play early. And we just needed time to get a little more comfortable with what goes on in a game — and people making runs at us and sustaining our focus — those things take time.”
Over time, the team has seen some new significant contributors emerge. Two players who did not begin the season in the starting lineup ended up starting and being a top three scorer for Springfield on Saturday. Nick Bray, a sophomore guard, made his fourth start of the season against Clark, and scored the second-most points he has had in a game thus far. He also grabbed a career-high eight rebounds. Jacob Morales, a first-year forward, had a career-high 18 points in the Pride’s previous matchup, then topped it on Saturday with 22 after going 2-for-3 from the three-point line and 8-for-10 on foul shots.
“I would tell you that you better get used to it,” said Brock on Morales’s recent performance. “He’s a very talented kid.”
Despite the game’s overall high score, it started rather slowly. Each team only collected six points for the first six minutes. The Pride was able to break out of the slump easier than Clark, which helped give them a significant lead late in the first half. With three minutes left in the first half, Clark had been 5-for-28 (17.9%) from the field, which gave them only 16 points and brought them down by 13 points.
The Cougars gained some momentum heading into the half, however. A 9-3 run propelled them to within seven, and provided some morale for the struggling offense.
Springfield answered back in the second half by making each of their first four shots from the field, with three of them coming from beyond the arc. This provided the Pride a 15-point lead early in the half, and they held a comfortable lead for the rest of the matchup.
After Springfield’s efficient offensive attack, the game became physical. Clark fouled the Pride seven times in about a five-minute span, which brought Springfield to the line after each Clark foul for the majority of the second half. Inevitably, the free throw line was not the place the Cougars wanted the Pride, as they went 18-for-23 (78.3%) from the charity stripe.
The last scare Springfield endured was a 10-0 Clark run that made the score 60-51. Yet, after Brock called a timeout, the momentum shifted quickly. They went on a 12-3 run that put them up by 18 points with less than four minutes remaining.
“I think they got it down to nine,” said Brock. “And we called a timeout, and just said ‘you got to stand up,’ and two months ago we probably would have folded. Now, they understand what they got to do, and they took care of it.”
Positive shifts in momentum such as this have given Brock more confidence in his young team. Additionally, breakout performances from underclassmen like Morales, Bray, and others have instilled hope.
First-year forward Justin Dunne did not light up the scoring column, but still had a breakout defensive performance with eight total blocks, which doubled his previous career-high. His stiff interior defense was a large part of what held the Cougars to a 30.4% field goal percentage.
Along with breakout performances from underclassmen, senior guard Daryl Costa was also vital to the Pride’s success. His 19 points were one shy of tying a career-high. They came efficiently, also, as he went 6-for-10 from the field and 3-for-5 from behind the three-point line.
Springfield will look to make it four out of five wins on Jan. 26 when they face Emerson College. They return to Blake Arena on Feb. 2 against MIT.
Photo: Joe Arruda/The Student