Basketball is a game where momentum can change in an instant. A team can go from struggling to winning games to rolling off ten straight in a short time. College basketball culminates in March Madness for a reason. The madness reveals more about a team’s character than anything.
Malone’s men’s basketball team has had plenty of madness happen in their season, having seven games decided by three points or less. Unfortunately, the Pioneers have often come out on the losing end. Two of the toughest losses have come to GLIAC Division Leaders Saginaw Valley State University in overtime and nationally ranked Ashland University on a buzzer beater.
Casey Kaufman, interim men’s head basketball coach, said, “[We are] very close to getting over the hump. [The players] have done a good job of staying poised.”
A combined margin of 17 points has decided seven games for the Pioneers. This is a testament to the resilience of the team despite sophomore guard Nate Shepard’s injuries. Shepard leads the team averaging 17 points per game. It is difficult to duplicate that success from the bench.
Kaufman said, “[We need to] limit turnovers. [The] most important thing is to improve as a team and worry about what we are doing. [The] character of the guys has been the most impressive thing.”
Malone has shown bright spots despite the results. Senior center Brian Stone leads the entire country in field goal percentage, shooting the ball at a 75 percent rate from the field.
Christian Graves, redshirt junior guard, said “[We have] to be as tough as possible for a full 40 minutes, with nothing to lose. We have to sell out for each other [without] giving up.”
There has been no quit in this team despite the gut wrenching and frustrating, close losses that have piled up this season. The team remains the top priority in adversity.
Graves said, “One thing we will never do is give up on a season no matter what comes.”
This attitude will serve Malone well as they approach the downhill stretch of the season.
Sophomore forward Mitch Spotleson said, “[We are] really playing for respect. Right now we need to take games one at a time and get some good momentum going forward. We talk about defense and toughness all the time, and it’s what needs to be done.”
The Pioneers still mathematically have a chance at ending with better record than last year. Their attitude to not give up might turn things around and create some madness.
Spotleson said, “We know the way we can play and what it takes. We all want to finish the season right and not give up. It’s about going out and doing it.”
Seth Byrd is the Sports Editor for The Aviso