By DAVID MERCER
After making an impressive run into the NCAA tournament last year, the revamped University of Mary Washington’s men’s basketball team struggled in their opening games last weekend.
The Eagles hosted their first two games of the season on Nov. 15 and 16. The teams invited were Lynchburg College and Randolph-Macon College.
The Eagles took on Lynchburg on Saturday, and a boisterous student body came out to support the team. The Eagles faced an early deficit from which they could not recover, losing to the Hornets 73-55.
Senior guard Taylor Johnson, however, supplied a bright spot for the team in the game with 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
Johnson sparked a fire in his teammates, and they worked hard to get back into the game as the Eagles closed the gap to single digits in the third quarter, but the feat was just too great to surmount. Both the fans and the team left disappointed and seeking redemption the next day.
Freshman forward Eric Shaw suffered an ankle injury and was not able to play in the team’s next game. He was on the sideline cheering his team on the next day in their game against Randolph-Macon.
The Eagles will also be without junior guard Haden Thompson this season as he will undergo a season-ending surgery on his thumb. He would have filled another position on the team as a guard.
“We got outworked in the first game,” Thompson said. “It wasn’t as much about x’s and o’s as it was about a collective team effort to play hard.”
After the upsetting loss in the first game, the Eagles came ready to play on Sunday. The team got off to a great start in the game and got the fans involved early.
With Shaw out, sophomore forward John Lutkenhaus provided the spark that the team needed to stay in the game.
“With Eric out I knew someone had to step up,” Lutkenhaus said. “I made every effort I could to help my team.”
Lutkenhaus was able to get his teammates involved, and they were able to stay in the game all the way down to the wire. He finished the game with 17 points and four rebounds
Both teams played hard defense and were able to get transition points that kept the game close. Despite the hard effort, the Eagles were outlasted by Randolph-Macon, and the final score was 63-58.
“In the second game we came out ready to play and played hard for 40 minutes. We just didn’t finish,” Thompson said.
Thompson is still optimistic about the season and what the team will be able to do.
“I know that if we play with fire in our hearts for the rest of the season we can contend for the CAC championship and make a run into the NCAA tournament,” Thompson said. “I’ll be there supporting my teammates for the rest of the season.”
The Eagles will look to use the opening weekend as a resource that will push them to work harder and be the best team they can be.
“This weekend was a learning experience for the whole team,” said Isaac Blue, a sophomore guard majoring in English with a focus in journalism.
The Eagles’ next game will be away against Shenandoah University on Friday, Nov. 21 at 7 p.m.