By Leif Johnston
The men’s basketball team has been on a fast track straight to the top of the ASC West division with an impressive 12-1 record. Recently knocking off a stingy Howard Payne team by double digits, the Cru looks to keep that momentum as they finish conference play.
Hitting the road to play quality teams will prove to be a tough task, but the Cru believe it isn’t anything they can’t handle.
“There is no doubt that the road trip will be tough. It’s easy for teams to lose focus while traveling so much, but coach has done a great job to prepare us for what to expect,” senior business finance major Cory Meals said.
The Crusaders provided themselves a great deal of momentum going into the grueling road stretch.
A blowout win over a talented HSU team was just what the Cru was looking for.
“The Hardin Simmons game was huge considering we were both tied for first place in the East Division. They are our rivals, which made the win that much better,” freshman biology major Layton Zinsmeister said.
With younger players having to step up, the strong core of seniors provides a source of experience that has been vital to the team’s success. The Crusaders continue their winning ways by playing hard-nosed defense and taking care of the little things.
“I really thought this would be a team that would shoot the ball consistently between 48% and 53%, but we haven’t reached that yet,” Head Coach Ken DeWeese said. “We are shooting the ball OK, but we are not shooting the ball nearly as well as what I think this team can.”
The men’s program has been successful in the past and has set its sights on a deep run into the national tournament. This year’s team is no different. After a couple of early losses, the Crusaders have been doing whatever it takes to take their game to the next level.
“Our team goal this year is to win every game. Each game is just as important as the next. Our ultimate goal is to win a National Championship; we just have to stay focused and continue to work hard every day.” Meals said.
The unselfish approach that the Cru have taken to this season has made a tremendous impact on their production. Not to mention forcing their opponents to stay aware of each player on the court whether the player is a starter or coming off the bench.
“The past couple of games our first and second leading scorers have been off the bench, Thomas Ore and Antonie Chaney,” Deweese said. “The best teams that I have ever coached have had a guy off the bench that is one of the top three scorers.”
The Crusaders will end the regular season with four home games, so the road games strung together are important for the team’s preparation for postseason play.
“Playing all of these road games can help us in the postseason. We probably won’t have a postseason home game, so we might as well get used to playing and winning on the road,” Zinsmeister said.