By Joe Arruda
The Springfield College men’s basketball team fell to No. 21 Amherst by a score of 75-61 on Tuesday evening. The Mammoths’ undefeated record improved to 8-0 with the win, while the Pride dropped to 2-6 in front of a large Blake Arena crowd.
In the first half, a potential upset was the elephant in the arena.
The Pride, defending in their relatively new 2-3 zone, held the Mammoths to just 42% shooting from the field and 21% from three in the first half. On the other end of the court, Springfield made 44% of its shots and 56% from three to go into halftime trailing by just five.
But, in the second half, Amherst pulled away with a handful of dunks and several crafty shots in the paint.
“We worked hard on the zone and they got pretty good size so they kind of looked over the top of us. The kid (Garrett) Day is a great shooter and they seemed to figure it out. We just weren’t able physically to hang with them. What I would like to have done is change defenses back-and-forth to try to make them think a little bit but we really couldn’t hang in with them playing man-to-man,” Springfield head coach Charlie Brock said.
The size of the Mammoths prevailed over Springfield’s lineup, which consists of converted guards.
Brock said, “12 (offensive rebounds) for them, that’s not excessive. One guy had four and everybody else had one, we can hang with that. It’s that they scored 44 points in the paint – that’s the problem.”
Day, Amherst’s leading scorer entering the game, finished with just 13 points, but his threat from beyond the arc stretched the Pride zone. The nationally-ranked Mammoths moved the ball with pace, almost always finding an open man in the paint. Because of that, five different players in black tallied multiple assists.
The zone, though, is here to stay with the Birthplace Boys.
“It’s something we can coach and I think with the players that we have we can do some really good things with it,” Brock said after his team forced 14 turnovers.
It was first-year Jacob Morales who kept the Pride in the game in the first half offensively. Morales, a six-foot-four big, made three of his four shots from beyond the arc to earn a team-high nine points heading into the half.
“If he’s open, he should be shooting,” Brock said about Morales. “I thought he passed up on some shots and then there were a couple of shots that he forced, too. He’s just learning, he’s just young and he’s played five games at the college level. That’s what we’re going through with a lot of our guys. (Justin) Dunne is the same thing – he’s got some ability, he’s gonna be really good – so is Jake (Morales). They’re young yet and we are young yet with each other so it’s just going to take some time.”
With 10 underclassmen on the roster for Springfield, the Pride are certainly experiencing a Jake Ross-Heath Post hangover after the record-setting duo graduated in 2020 and Covid shut down last season.
The upperclassmen needed to step up in the second half, and they did all they could. Avoiding a blowout, seniors Collin Lindsay and Daryl Costa stepped up in the late stages. Lindsay, who had six points at halftime, scored nine in the second, while Costa turned a scoreless half into seven.
After starting the season 0-5, the light began to shine for the Pride when they won the Ed Hockenbury Classic at Norwich this past weekend. Those two wins restored the love of the game to the campus that created it.
“It was definitely a boost for our morale, we needed one,” Brock said on the team’s first win of the season over Maine – Fort Kent on Friday. “I think as much as anything, they learned and they enjoyed working hard and having it work out. It was getting harder and harder to work hard because it wasn’t working. It was definitely a boost for us to go back to the drawing board every day and work harder.”
The Pride will have to work even harder to prepare for another NESCAC foe when they host Williams on Saturday. The Ephs are also undefeated but still, the focus is on the zone.
“We’re just everyday fighting to be better at maximizing our possessions and scoring, or at least getting efficient shots and being patient to do so. We’re working on our defense – we may be playing zone but we still work on man-to-man principles in practice and they apply to zone too,” Brock said.
Saturday’s game against Williams will tip off at 4 p.m. in Blake Arena.
Photo courtesy of Joe Arruda/The Student