By CHRIS MARKHAM
For first-year head coach Marcus Kahn and the rest of the men’s basketball team at the University of Mary Washington, the 2014-2015 season has been a long, disappointing one. Mustering just one win in their first 13 games, the Eagles have taken a long fall from grace after last year’s historic NCAA Tournament run.
It was not until the beginning of the spring semester that a glimmer of hoped shined through the darkness of UMW’s season. Fresh off winning back-to-back games for the first time this season, the Eagles are finally hitting their stride and showing their true potential.
The Eagles played a total of five games over the semester break, going 1-4 in that span. Their lone win during the break was the Eagles’ first win of the season, edging out Marymount University 66-64 at home. The win was pivotal in improving the psyche of the team and it showed in the Eagles’ proceeding games.
Although both were losses, UMW fell by a combined 10 points between the next two games. In front of a packed Anderson Center crowd on Jan. 10, UMW squared off against Wesley College in their second game after their first win of the season.
A strong first half for the Eagles, capped off by sophomore Isaac Blue’s buzzer-beating layup, gave the Eagles a commanding 48-29 lead at the break. UMW’s offense went cold in the second half, opening the door for a dramatic Wesley comeback. Going toe-to-toe down the stretch, the game was sent into overtime and then double overtime after a last second three-pointer from Quincy Pettiford tied the game once again. Wesley outscored the Eagles 11-10 in the second overtime period, delivering UMW one of its toughest loss of the year.
Following the loss, the Eagles were left with a decision to make: allow the defeat to sink their confidence or embrace the positives of the loss.
By evidence of the next two games, the Eagles opted for the latter.
UMW proceeded to win back-to-back games for the first time this season, outscoring their opponents by 27 points in the two games.
The Eagles faced Southern Virginia University in the first of their next two games. UMW held a 40-27 halftime lead, and contrary to their result against Wesley College, the Eagles maintained their momentum into the second half and came out victorious 82-64. Junior Tyler Thurston had this best game of the season, pouring in a game-high 22 points. Sophomore Brent Mahoney added 14 points and made plenty of noise of the defensive end, tallying five steals.
The next game pitted the Eagles against another struggling opponent, the 2-12 Penn State Harrisburg Lions. Sophomore Eric Shaw led the way for the Eagles with a game-high 19 points en route to a 70-61 UMW victory.
The record may be unsightly, but behind the losses are much more assuring numbers. In the Eagles’ 12 losses this season, they have lost by just an average of 8.6 points. Additionally, half of those losses were by a margin of five points or less.
Another key number hiding behind UMW’s record is their conference record. Despite only having three wins on the year, the Eagles have a 3-5 record against the Capital Athletic Conference, keeping them in the hunt for the tournament.
The Eagles’ next home game is Saturday, Jan. 24 against York College at 3 p.m. and will prove to be significant toward UMW’s tournament hopes.