Bison on the court

Justin Schaumberger and Brittany Willwerth, Sports Co-Editors

Review of Past Basketball Seasons

After successful campaigns in 2018-2019, the Bison men’s and women’s basketball teams are looking to continue their recent success in the upcoming season. The women’s basketball team finished last season with a record of 28-6, including a Patriot League regular-season title, tournament title, and their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2017. The men’s basketball team won its eighth regular-season title in the past nine years with a 21-12 record but ultimately fell short in the PL championship game.

The women’s basketball team capped off one of their most successful seasons ever with a regular-season and Patriot League Tournament Championship and a near-upset of fifth seed Florida State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Also, this past season was the last as a Bison for head coach Aaron Roussell, who is now the head coach of the women’s basketball team at the University of Richmond. Roussell departs as the most successful coach in Bison women’s basketball history, having won 67.7 percent of his games. Taking over for the Orange and Blue is head coach Trevor Woodruff, who is the former coach of the University of Scranton. Over the past four seasons, Woodruff has compiled a record of 113-10, including four regular season titles.


Women’s Basketball

Woodruff isn’t the only major change for the women’s basketball team in their upcoming season. The team additionally graduated a senior class who was arguably the most successful in the program’s 46-year history. The class finished their four years with two Patriot League Tournament Championships, one regular season Championship, two NCAA Tournament appearances, and a record of 64-8 in league play. Now, the Orange and Blue will look to replace the outstanding play of seniors, such as Kaitlyn Slagus ’19 (13 PPG), Kate Walker ’19 (11 PPG), Kyi English ’19 (25.6 MPG).

Ally Johnson ’21 is one of the players on the women’s basketball team who is looking to fill a role of one of the seniors who graduated from the team. Last year, Johnson played in 33 of the Orange and Blue’s 34 games, averaging 14.6 MPG.

“We’ve had a bunch of new changes this year with a new coaching staff and players having to take on new roles within the team which comes with a huge learning curve,” Johnson said. “We’ve already come so far since the summer and I hope we can keep building and just get better and better over the rest of the non conference and into Patriot League.”


Men’s Basketball 

For the men’s team, the focus for the upcoming season consists primarily of consistency, seeking to fill spots vacated by recently graduated, high-impact seniors. All-Patriot League performers Kimbal Mackenzie ’19 and Nate Sestina ’19 went on to earn a professional roster spot and fifth-year graduate season at No. 9 Kentucky, respectively. The Bison’s recent leadership helped pave their way to a 13-5 Patriot League record last season. Turning to this season, Jimmy Sotos ’21, Avi Toomer ’20 and Bruce Moore ’20 return as three key starters for the team. Moore started all 33 games last season, while Toomer increased his scoring average from 4.7 to 8.7 points a game. For Sotos, his 6.1 assists per game landed him 18th among national leaders.

“Five games in, we’ve already experienced the ups and downs of a long season but I am confident that we will continue to grow individually and as a team. We have a lot of potential and one day (hopefully soon) we’ll realize that,” Moore said.

Looking to fill big shoes, Ben Robertson ’20 joins Moore and Toomer as one of the team’s 2019-2020 captains. Known for his impressive dunks, Robertson has appeared in 85 career games, shooting 53.8 percent from the field. Fellow contributors this year include John Meeks ’21, Paul Newman ’21 and Andrew Funk ’22.

Averaging just under 77 points per game last year, head coach Nathan Davis is focused on continuing to implement the fast-paced offense his team so often embraces. Through facing non-conference opponents such as Vermont, Princeton and Albany, the team will acquire quality preparation prior to opening Patriot League play against Army on Jan. 2.

“We have showed times of being a great team and now have to string that together for a whole game,” Meeks said. “All of the problems we’ve had are in our control and that’s what practice is for. We’ve been working hard and we’re looking forward to chasing another championship.”


Role of Athletics 

With a small to medium-sized enrollment, the University’s atmosphere reflects the big-school spirit through its Division I athletics. 

“I think athletics plays a large role in the culture of [the] University,” Senior Associate Athletics Director Todd Newcomb said. “The campus is made up of students who in general are connected to athletics in one way or another, either as a varsity student-athlete, club sport athlete, intramural participant, or one who takes advantage of the KLARC and the many fitness classes that are available. At the varsity level, a history of high success in the Patriot League, and even before that in the East Coast Conference, has become something that our alumni body has come to expect now.”

“We have the best atmosphere at home in the league. Often when you look at the attendance for our [men’s basketball] home games and compare it to the attendance at the other four games played that night in our league you will see that we had more people at our game than the other league games had combined,” Davis said. “When the students come out in force with their energy I think it is very hard for anyone to come into Sojka and beat us.”

For more information about the men’s and women’s basketball teams and their schedules, visit the University’s website. 

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