By WESLEY HOST
The Mary Washington men’s basketball team beat Frostburg State 70-35 last Saturday, Jan.22, in Goolrick gymnasium. The last time the Eagles played on their home court they suffered an embarrassing 91-65 loss to St. Mary’s College of Maryland. UMW went on to lose their ensuing two games on the road and within a week, the Eagles had plummeted from first to third place in the Capital Athletic Conference standings.
“We had to get back on track,” junior Tad Dickman said, and that was precisely what the Eagles did.
UMW freshmen Bradley Reister led all scorers with 17 points and junior teammate Ryan Farrar also poured in 15. Reister sunk three three-pointers, two of which were from NBA range.
For most of the game the Eagles played with five players around the arc, but occasionally junior Ryan Henderson or sophomore Mike Littlejohn would flash down to provide a presence in the post. This took Frostburg’s attention away from the perimeter and left open space for the Eagles outside, as UMW shot 47 percent from beyond the arc. Dickman played both on the outside and down in the paint, as he scored eight points while pulling down six rebounds.
Freshmen Walt Smith brought plenty of energy on both offense and defense. He ran the floor and created turnovers, causing major swings in momentum in Mary Washington’s favor. The 5’10” point guard not only played well, but played with a chip on his shoulder.
“People say it’s not a big deal (to lose three straight games), that we are better than last year, but in my whole career I’ve never lost three games in a row,” Smith said.
The Eagles’ defense was stingy early and made it clear that Frostburg State would not hang around. The visiting Bobcats shot just 22 percent from the field and failed to reach double digits in the first half, tallying a mere nine points in the first 20 minutes of action.
UMW’s defensive strategy was to limit inside shooting and force the opposition to shoot outside shots.
“Long shots make long rebounds, and that’s one thing that starts our fast break,” head coach Rod Wood explained.
The Eagles excelled in transition and brought a quick tempo to the game as they constantly pushed the pace. The hustle was apparent, as UMW challenged every shot, dove for loose balls and forced an array of turnovers, as they recorded 11 steals in the game.
All 12 Eagle players got into the game as UMW cruised to an easy win. Wood’s mentality was for players to give all they had out on the court and then get subbed out to rest, resulting in a lot of substitutions and a cycle of fresh legs.
“With the fast pace offense we run, a player can only play about three to four minutes (before getting tired),” Wood said. “I don’t want anyone pacing themselves.”
The Eagles have made some strides this season and are ahead of where they stood just a year ago, but Wood insists they have much to learn.
“Being such a young team, we lack a mental toughness,” Wood said. He continued to note that his team has to learn to “weather other team’s runs” to stay in close games.
The win Saturday boosts the Eagles record to 12-5 overall and 6-3 against CAC competition. The team has seven more conference games in the season, three of which will come against teams the Eagles have previously lost to this year.
The top six teams in the CAC advance to the conference tournament, but the Eagles want to make sure they are in the upper echelon so they can play a lower seeded team.
The men’s basketball team was set to travel north to Arlington, Va to take on Marymount University last night, but becasue of the incliment weather the game was postponed to tonight, Jan. 27.
Tonight’s road game will be the start of a three game stretch away from Goolrick gymnasium for the men’s basketball team. The Eagles will return home Wednesday, Feb. 9, to play Hood College at 8 p.m.
photo courtesy of Clint Often