After a slow 2–2 start to the season for the men’s basketball team, a sense of urgency surrounded a team with postseason aspirations.
Since losing to SUNY-Oswego 95–83 Nov. 28, the Bombers have won 11 of 13 contests, including a nine-game winning streak that featured a 107–97 victory against then-No. 13-ranked Franklin and Marshall College in the final of the F&M Sponaugle New Years Tournament in Lancaster, Pa. In the past 13 games, the Blue and Gold have averaged 92.8 points per game and have scored 100 points or more four times after averaging only 80.3 points per game in their first four contests.
Junior guard Jordan Marcus, who passed the 1,000-point mark for his career in the Bombers’ 101–95 win against St. John Fisher College on Jan. 8, said the offense simply started clicking.
“We just started to get a better feel for each other,” Marcus said. “The coaches didn’t really have to make any changes. Shots just started falling, and it’s just gone on from there.”
Marcus said the play of sophomore point guard Sean Rossi and senior center Phil Barera has helped to open things up for the shooters.
“It takes a lot of the pressure off some of the other guys,” he said. “They attract so much attention on the offensive end that the defense is forced to make that extra commitment to try and stop them, and that leaves open shots for the rest of us.”
Senior guard Chris Cruz-Rivas, who also passed the 1,000-point mark for his career in the Bombers’ 101–67 win against Elmira College on Jan. 18, said the increased intensity on the glass and on defense helped spark the run.
“We haven’t been taking any teams lightly,” Cruz-Rivas said. “Losing to Oswego was an eye-opener and gave us that boost that we needed. The guards have done a much better job rebounding, and we haven’t taken any possessions off.”
Barera, who took home Empire 8 Player of the Week honors after averaging 24.8 points and 11.3 rebounds in the past four games, said the sense of urgency kicked in right after the team’s second loss.
“We knew we couldn’t let the slow start snowball and affect the way we played the whole season,” Barera said. “The chemistry just got better as we got a more solid rotation, and we’ve just been comfortable with each other this last month and a half.”
Marcus said the win over Franklin and Marshall let the Bombers know they could compete with any team in the country.
“We’re a confident team, and that win only reinforced what we’ve been thinking all season,” Marcus said. “We feel like we can go into any team’s building and compete at a high level.”
The Bombers will finish up the season with six of their final eight games on the road. The Blue and Gold need to win seven of those eight games to give them the 20 wins necessary to get back to the national tournament after missing it last season.
Cruz-Rivas said the next few games will be an indicator of how far the team will advance this season.
“We’re a young team, but a lot of those guys got experience last season,” Cruz-Rivas said. “We know teams are going to give us their best shot, and now is the time of the year when good teams separate themselves.”