There is one month left in the basketball season, and John Brown University’s men’s basketball team is looking to capitalize in their final games.
With a record of 10-10, the Golden Eagles hope to finish the season strong and earn a high seed in the Sooner Athletic Conference playoff tournament. If they win the entire tournament, the result will be a spot in the NAIA national tournament.
Games the Golden Eagles played versus opponents outside the SAC will contribute to their definitive record, but only the games they have played versus SAC opponents will contribute to their ranking within the conference tournament.
“Conference [play] is essentially a new season,” forward Josh Bowling explained. “We want to get hot during conference so that we can get a good seed for the tournament.”
The Golden Eagles started out hot, posting a 5-1 record to begin the season. Although the team only held their opponents to an average of 70.7 points per game during the six contests, they made up for it by averaging a whopping 93.5 points per game on their end. While such a record and offensive firepower impressed on paper, all but one of their victories in that span came against teams that currently hold losing records.
“We got off to a good start this season because we didn’t really have any tough competition,” forward Nate Anderson said. “Those teams were really easy to get some good team chemistry going against.”
Following their first six games, the Golden Eagles endured a slump, losing the following six of eight matches—including two to SAC opponents—before commencing exclusive conference play. Over half of their losses during that stretch were by five points or fewer, including a one-point overtime loss at College of the Ozarks.
“I’d say that first semester, as a whole, we realized that we don’t have the team chemistry that we need yet,” Anderson mentioned. “Really small things can mean really big things for the team. I believe we could be at least 10 points better than a bunch of the teams that we lost to. It was a good learning experience.”
Bowling pointed out that much of the initial part of the season was a young team—over half the active roster is comprised of underclassmen—working through growing pains and learning what it took to compete.
“There were a lot of new guys just getting to know each other and building team camaraderie,” Bowling said. “We had to learn how to play with each other.”
Point guard Luke Moyer mentioned that a lack of talent is not the issue when it comes to the Golden Eagles losing games—rather, it is that they often lose focus, costing them the game.
“We’re a team that really has to play together and do all the little things to win,” Moyer said. “When we lose a game, it’s not necessarily that we’re not good enough, but more so that we have mental lapses.”
To fix the “mental lapses,” Anderson said they have been incorporating more of a team mindset during their practices.
“The way we practice is to make sure we get everyone involved,” he said. “We’ve stopped running so many set plays and have started incorporating more motion.”
Tonight, the Golden Eagles will host St. Gregory’s College to begin the final month of both their season and SAC play. As Bowling mentioned, the team is looking to “get hot” and put themselves in a favorable position for the conference tournament.
“It’s the most important time of the year,” Moyer said. “It’s when we get to prove ourselves as a team and have a chance to make the national tournament, but more
importantly, just to come together and play our best basketball of the year.”