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Men's basketball overwhelmed against stiff winter competition

The team hopes its good chemistry will help it rebound from a tough stretch over break

As students and faculty members return to campus for the start of the Spring semester, the men’s basketball team finds itself in a rough patch. The team went 2-4 over winter break — all four losses were by single digits.

The break began with a losing streak for the Bears (8-6, Ivy 0-1). The team lost three straight, dropping games against Northwestern University (10-10, Big Ten 3-4), Niagara University (5-15, Metro 2-7) and the University of Rhode Island (10-10, Atlantic 10 1-4).

Bruno managed to right the ship as they picked up wins against Daniel Webster College (11-3, NECC 4-2) and New Hampshire University (3-15, American East 1-4). Their win against Daniel Webster, a 91-50 blowout, was the team’s largest margin of victory so far this season.

Winter break ended with a loss at the hands of Yale (7-8, 1-0) in Bruno’s Ivy League opener, 74-67.

“We didn’t exactly get the results we wanted,” said co-captain Cedric Kuakumensah ’16. “But I think we learned a lot about ourselves over the break. We played a wide variety of teams, and we continued to work on the aspects of our game that coach has been stressing all year.”

The team stresses defending the interior and controlling the boards, Kuakumensah said. The Bears successfully won the rebounding battle in all but one game over break.

“The more rebounds we grab, the more possessions we have, and the more chances we have to score. It’s basic math,” said co-captain Rafael Maia ’15. “Rebounding more than the other team also denies them a second opportunity at the basket.”

Maia is the team’s centerpiece in the paint — he averages 8.5 boards per game, 4.5 of which are offensive rebounds. In the four games that Maia played over the break —he missed the other two with a shoulder injury — he averaged 10.5 rebounds.

“(Maia) takes a lot of the pressure off of the rest of us because he gets a lot of rebounds, but we all need to chip in,” said Norman Hobbie ’17. “Especially against Yale, we needed our guards to help box out and rebound. Their guards out-rebounded their forwards, so we need to do a better job of helping (Maia) out.”

In addition to its interior presence, the team has worked to improve its offensive efficiency, Maia said. Hobbie, along with fellow rookies Tavon Blackmon ’17, Leland King ’17 and Steven Spieth ’17 have provided the team with fresh legs and scoring.

Hobbie posted three double-digit point totals over winter break, while Blackmon, King and Spieth have maintained field goal percentages above 40 percent for the season. The Brunonian freshmen have received five Ivy Rookie of the Week honors — Hobbie three times, King and Spieth both once.

“All of our freshmen are really good,” Maia said. “They work hard, and they have a lot of energy ... I think they’re going to continue to get minutes throughout the season, as long as they play well. We need them right now. We’re not saving them for the future.”

The veterans on the squad have confidence in their younger teammates and make sure to support the rookies wherever possible, Hobbie said.

“I was in a slump early (in the break),” he said, “but my teammates kept talking to me in practice and telling me to keep shooting. It gave me a lot of confidence, because I knew they were going to continue to look for me and to get me the ball in good positions to score.”

Team bonding was a theme for the team off the court over winter break, Kuakumensah, Maia and Hobbie said. The Bears frequently met for team dinners and watched NFL playoff games at Maia’s house.

“We spent a lot of the time together, and I think we benefitted a lot from it,” Kuakumensah said. “We were all close before, but the break made us even closer. We’re going to be spending a lot of time together in the next month and a half, so we wanted to get a head start on building some chemistry and closeness with each other.”

All of the Bears’ remaining games come against conference foes, and the squad begins a three-game homestand Saturday with a rematch against Yale followed by games against Cornell and Columbia next weekend.


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