As the season winds down, Clark credits young players with success
By Ryan Day | firstname.lastname@example.org
Men’s basketball Head Coach Bo Clark has led the Saints to 14 wins in their last 16 games, citing team balance and freshmen playing like seniors for their success.
“We’re playing with a lot of confidence,” Clark said. “As young as we are, we’re playing our games with a lot of confidence.”
After a disappointing 85-72 loss to in-state rivals Embry-Riddle on Dec. 5 and a 3-3 start, any confidence the Saints had was shaky at best. But Clark said their 17-5 record, the Saints’ best since 2003, can be attributed to the overachievement of freshmen guards D.J. Ferguson and John Pietkiewicz.
“You can’t say enough about D.J. [Ferguson] and John [Pietkiewicz],” Clark said. “They’re really stepping up. We brought them in because we knew they could play and compete, but they’re playing even better than we could have hoped.
“It usually takes about nine or 10 games for freshmen to become sophomores, but those guys have really stepped up. It only took about four games for these guys to mature into solid basketball players.
“But I don’t want to discredit anything the rest of the team is doing. We’ve got a great group of guys and we’re getting a lot of players in on the rotation and some quality minutes. It’s really very balanced and that’s a luxury not a lot of coaches have.”
How big of a luxury is it for Clark and the Saints? How much have they improved from last year?
The Saints have already captured 17 wins, three more than last year, with five more on the schedule.
After 22 games, eight of the 13 players on the Saints roster are averaging 15 minutes a game.
No Florida team the Saints have played this year have done that, not even No. 9 Embry-Riddle.
In 2006, opponents were averaging 77 points a game. That number is down to 68 this year.
And probably the most important statistic is the fact that the Saints have posted a 4-3 road record and are on track to have their best away record since their 2004 season. The Saints have three road games left.
“These games are going to be tough,” senior forward Bryan Borstelmann said. “We just need to stay in it and pull it out.”
“Whether you’re the Detroit Pistons, the Duke Blue Devils, it’s hard to win on the road,” Clark said. “You need to have mental toughness.”