‘Hawks win four in a row

Dec. 3, 2014 By Justin St. Peter

 

After losing the season opener to Cardinal Stritch University, the Warhawks men’s basketball team is on a roll heading into conference play.

The ’Hawks, now 4-1, are on a four game winning streak and are outscoring opponents by an average of 10.8 points.

Head coach Pat Miller said the offense really picked up after the first game.

“Our offensive execution has improved considerably,” Miller said. “Our ball movement is better. Our shot selection has been better. Defensively, we are still not close to where we need to be, but we made some strides.”

The ’Hawks beat Hope College on Nov. 18 on the road in Holland, Michigan 72-70 before ripping off three straight double-digit victories.

The ’Hawks originally were ranked No. 1 by both D3hoops and NCAA.com, but dropped to No. 3 after the  season-opening loss.

Center Steve Egan said the team learned a lot from its loss.

“We learned that we are a different team than last year,” Egan said. “We had to figure out what we had to do to get better.  I think we came in thinking that we could pick up right where we left.”

The ’Hawks defense has improved in its last three contests  as they held opponents to under 43 percent from the field, a stark change from the 50 percent allowed in the first two games.

Senior guard Quardell Young and sophomore guard Drew Bryson were named to the All-Tournament team in the Chicago Marriott Naperville Tip-Off Tournament at North Central College. The ’Hawks won both games in the tournament with a 67-46 win over Bluffton University on Nov. 21 and a 95-72 victory on Nov. 22 against Trinity International University.

The ’Hawks then beat Alma College 84-71 on Nov. 26. The game was played at the Palace of Auburn Hills, which is the Detroit Pistons home arena in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

“It was something that I never got to experience and will probably never experience again,” Egan said. “Playing in Salem is right up there with it, but to play on the same floor as some of the best players in the NBA and best players in the world is awesome.”

Miller agrees with Egan and saw a benefit in playing on a neutral court as well.

“In my mind, it was a better opportunity than going to Alma and playing on their home floor,” Miller said. “Instead we got a neutral court game in a fun environment.”

Senior forward KJ Evans is leading the team in scoring and rebounding, averaging 15.4 points per game and 8.4 rebounds per game. Senior guard Quardell Young is averaging 14.6 points, 5.6 assists, and 2.6 steals per game.

Senior guard Cody Odegaard is averaging 12.2 points per game, and Egan is averaging 9.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.

Bryson, the fifth starter has averaged 9.4 points per game while shooting a scorching 62.5 percent (10-16) from behind the arc through the first five games.

Miller said he is excited about what the bench can offer in addition to the strong performance from his starters.

“That was probably the biggest difference from game one and the last few games was our production off the bench,” Miller said. “Ron Patton has given us a good scoring option and rebounding option off the bench. Xzavier [Moananu] has played well. Brandon Thompson has come off the bench in the last two games and really provided some stable minutes.”

The ’Hawks enter WIAC conference play this week at 7 p.m. on Dec. 3 on the road against UW-Oshkosh and play UW-Platteville at 7 p.m. on Dec. 6 at home.

For Egan, it will be a short homecoming. The Oshkosh native said it will be nice to get a lot of hometown support from family and friends.

Despite the fans on Egan’s side, he knows the ’Hawks will have a target on their backs.

“They [Oshkosh] will have a good crowd and they will be coming out pumped up and amped up trying to upset us,” Egan said.

“We knew that going into the season, we felt like we had a team that could go on the road and compete in these games,” Miller said. “I believe that it helps chemistry and gets guys to know each other better. I think we progressed as a team, and it will be nice to play at home.”