Men’s basketball struggles on the road to start the season

Patrick Dempsey, Contributing Writer

The Bison men’s basketball team opened their regular non-conference schedule with an 0-3 record on the road, dropping losses at Monmouth, Arkansas, and North Carolina.

The second-half push from the team fell short as the Bison dropped their season opener on Nov. 10 to the Monmouth Hawks, 79-78. In front of a packed crowd at the OceanFirst Bank Center in West Long Branch, N.J., third-year head coach Nathan Davis’s team started off slow offensively, hitting four out of their first 15 3-point attempts and shooting only 38.5 percent from the free-throw line in the first half.

It took some time for the Bison to get going offensively, but in the second half, they showed the high level at which they are capable of performing. Down by 10 at halftime, the Bison came roaring back to eventually take a narrow lead with a few minutes left to play.

Forward Zach Thomas ’18 led the Bison in scoring, sinking 24 points in the second half and ending the game with a career-high 31 points. Thomas also hit another personal best with 16 rebounds. Although Davis saw some areas for improvement, he praised his team’s resilience.

“One of the best qualities of this team is that these guys will fight to the end and never give up,” Davis said.

In a quick turnaround, the team flew to Fayetteville, Ark. on Nov. 12 to face the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena. The last and only time these two teams squared off against each other was when the Bison ousted Arkansas in an improbable upset victory in the first round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament. Streaky shooting and good ball distribution helped the Razorbacks win a 101-73 rout over the Orange and Blue.

From tipoff to the final buzzer, the Razorbacks controlled the game on both sides of the court. Knowing that the Bison like to shoot the three ball, Arkansas guarded the Bison close-up on the perimeter and they were effective at forcing the offense into taking contested, low percentage shots.

Thomas earned his second double-double of the young season while finishing with a team-high 24 points and a team-high 10 rebounds for the Bison. Fellow senior Stephen Brown ’18 had a team-high 9 assists in the game. Compared to the Monmouth game, the Orange and Blue shot much better from the free-throw line, ending the game with a free throw percentage of 55.6 percent.

Student manager Michael Bangs ’20 was excited to start the season on the road against two very strong opponents, but he knew it would be a challenge. The non-conference schedule this season is considered the most difficult in the 123-year history of the program.

“By continuing to play high level competition it will give the team a chance to get a big program win and a momentum boost for the rest of our non-conference schedule,” Bangs said.

On Nov. 15 the Bison dropped their third straight loss to defending national champions North Carolina by a score of 93-81. The Orange and Blue were led by Brown and Nana Foulland ’18, who notched 21 points apiece. The Tar Heels led by as much as 16 in the first half, and the Bison rallied to within one to make the score 59-58 midway through the first half, but could not pull off the upset.

The Orange and Blue travel to play Maryland on Nov. 18 and will play their home opener in Sojka on Nov. 20 against Siena.

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