Saints look to rebound after 1-6 start

Players and coaches committed to turning tough season around

By Brian Vigna |
Photo by Matthew Boyle

PHOTO CAPTION: The Saints have lost some of the early momentum of the season and now look forward to the remaining challenges of 2009 for their chance to bring respect back to the program. Sophomore Guard John Pietkiewicz drives towards the basket here in a losing effort against Embry-Riddle.

The Saints are 1-6 and fans want answers. The honest truth is that the team just can’t finish games, but the reason behind this fatal flaw isn’t so easily seen.

The lack of true centers or big men on the team is an obvious shortcoming. Ask anyone who’s ever played basketball against their older brother or sister and they’ll tell you that you just can’t win against someone twice your size. The fact that in each game so far this season we’ve faced teams that average a full 3-5 inches bigger than our squad is not one to overlook.

Take Eckerd for example, the Tritons aren’t considered one of the bigger teams in the Peach Belt Conference, but they also have three players who are 6 foot 8 or taller, also not a statistic to overlook when preparing for the match-up.

In the game Ben De La Cruz narrowly missed a double double and John Pietkiewicz had 20 points, but Dale Carn, an impressive sophomore transfer for Eckerd, practically picked his shots. Carn even started the game with a rim-shaking dunk to let the Saints know he was not afraid of our undersized team.

The Saints held their own throughout the first half of the game, but as has been the unflattering trend, let the game slip out of grasp as the clock ticked. In the end the Eckerd game was a 82-67 win for Eckerd and a disappointing 0-1 start to the season for the Saints.

After dropping the Eckerd game, the Saints hoped to improve against Puerto Rico-Mayaguez, and a huge 98-61 rout was just the blowout they had hoped for.

Photo by Matthew Boyle

At that point the Saints were 1-1. They knew they were going to face some tough teams over the next few weeks, but no one could have anticipated five straight losses.

The team now sits at 1-6 and players are simply disappointed in their second half efforts. “We need to execute down the stretch because we look great in the first half,” remarked Kenny Moore.

Although the Saints can probably count out a huge year, no one has quit. Team leader DJ Ferguson has committed himself to the long term goal of the team, to compete and win, in a very competitive Peach Belt Conference.

One thing the team has also struggled with is shooting, both from the field and from the foul line. In each of the past three losses for the Saints the team has shot well from beyond the arch, but shot poorly from the charity stripe and the floor.

Against former conference rival Embry-Riddle the Saints shot 10-23, just 43 percent of their foul shots and ended up losing the game by 4 points.

Do the math: that means that if the Saints had shot even a measly 50 percent and made about 13 or 14 of their 23 foul shots they could have tied and forced overtime or even won the game.

DJ Ferguson said, “We just gotta’ hit free throws.”

It may sound simple enough — get some big men and hit free throws — but the problems aren’t so cut and dry. The situation is not what the team expected going into the season but no one is quitting, staying optimistic about their losing record.

Andre McFarline said, “We need to communicate as one unit and go out there and handle business the rest of the season.”

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