By SAM MENCARINI
The UMW men’s basketball team lost another close game last Saturday, Feb. 12, to CAC rival York College by a score of 76-70. The loss was the third consecutive conference defeat for the Eagles and dropped their record to 13-9 overall and 7-7 in conference play.
The Eagles started out slow, as they fell behind early but were able to remain within striking distance. The only lead of the game for UMW came after freshman guard Bradley Riester hit a three to give the Eagles a 10-7 lead with just over 15 minutes remaining in the opening half. However, the Eagles couldn’t hold the lead long as York maintained hot shooting from the perimeter throughout the contest, which gave them a distinct advantage.
Going into halftime, the Eagles trailed 38-34.
The Eagles came out of halftime similarly to their start of the game: flat and sluggish. York took advantage of UMW’s poor play out of the break to go on a 10-2 run and stretch their lead up to a 14-point margin.
“Our tendency all year has been to be a team that comes out of halftime slow, causing us to fight from behind,” senior guard Qaiser Ahmed said. “We dig ourselves into a big hole and have to fight and claw our way back, but today we just didn’t have enough to pull it off.”
The Spartans lead extended to 19 with 7:14 remaining in the game, but the Eagles responded by going on a 25-6 run to close the gap to two with a mere 30 seconds left. Freshmen E.J. Willis and Walt Smith were catalysts in UMW’s comeback, as great defense and timely shooting by the pair lead the Eagles charge. However, after two heart-stopping missed tip-ins, York was able to gain control of the ball and went on to ice the game with free throws.
The Eagles had a plethora of opportunities that they failed to capitalize on in the game. UMW shot 29 percent from the three-point line and an abysmal 48 percent from the free throw line, including 5-14 in the second half alone.
“We continue to shoot ourselves in the foot with turnovers and empty possessions on the offensive end, which in turn we let affect our play on the defensive end of the court,” Ahmed said.
The turnover problem that has plagued the Eagles all year was again an issue, as UMW committed 20 in the loss to York, right around their average for the year.
This marks consecutive home losses for the Eagles for the first time this season. Both losses have come down to the last couple minutes of the game against opponents whom the Eagles are competing with for postseason seeding.
“We haven’t been able to put together 40 great minutes of basketball in these last few games, and it has really cost us recently,” junior guard Mike Harvey said.
After starting the season off with a blistering record of 11-2, the Eagles have been slumping lately as they have dropped seven of their last nine games. The poor stretch has made UMW fall from the first overall seed in the CAC down to either the fifth or sixth spot. The next two games will determine whether the Eagles will be the 5th or 6th seed in the upcoming conference tournament that starts Feb. 22. UMW will most likely have to travel to either Pennsylvania to play York College or Maryland to battle Hood College in the opening round.
The Eagles were back in actions last night, Feb. 16, as they traveled to Stevenson University, but the game ended too late for results to be included in this issue. UMW will take on Wesley College on Saturday, Feb. 19, as they close out the regular season at home against the Wolverines.