Fresh off the heels of a 5-2 run through the PSAC West, the WCU Men’s basketball team was feeling good heading into conference play against PSAC East foe Kutztown University. Unfortunately, they left Hollinger Fieldhouse feeling the blues as they were handed a crushing 70-54 loss.Kutztown came into the game with five players averaging at least 10 points per game and their depth and experience showed. From the opening tip, the Golden Bears were all over the Rams and abused them on the boards.
“They just outhustled us,” said junior forward Ralph Hegamin. “There were a lot of loose balls that we just couldn’t get to”.
The Rams struggled with Kutztown’s speed and quickness as well.
“Things like not getting back on defense, some quick shots and stuff like that is what killed us,” added Hegamin.
The Rams shooting the ball very poorly didn’t help matters. For the game, they shot a paltry 36.4 percent from the field, including a miserable 2-17 from beyond the three-point line. Hegamin led the Rams with 14 points on 6-9 shooting, but he was the only Ram to have any success shooting the ball.
Sophomore guard Kenneth St. George had a day to forget, as he was harassed and hounded into only 3-10 shooting. St. George saw his fair share of double-teams and just had one of those days.
WCU’s lone senior, Lenwood Greenwood, had a very quiet game as he scored just nine points on 4-12 shooting. Greenwood was also only able to grab six rebounds, far short of his average of 10 per game.
However, WCU fans should not be concerned as games like these for the usually extremely reliable Greenwood and St. George are very few and far between, and the odds are very good that both men will bounce back with big games.
To compound things even worse, the Rams got out-rebounded 41-31 and at times, had multiple opportunities to snag loose rebounds from the prying hands of the Kutztown players but were not able to. Greenwood’s six rebounds led the way for WCU, followed by Hegamin and Kehinde Roberts who both had five rebounds.
Kutztown dominated the glass on the strength of Andre Woodlin’s 10 rebounds in addition to Dave Ben’s seven rebounds and Ryan Washington’s nine boards. Washington had a terrific all-around game with 16 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two blocks and one steal. Stephen Dennis, a player that WCU head coach refers to as “the best player in the conference”, chipped in 11 points, five assists and three blocks.
Perhaps the most disconcerting fact about this game is that Kutztown shred the WCU defense to pieces. The middle of the WCU zone defense was exploited all day with layups, turnaround jumpers and runners. The Rams did a good job of defending the perimeter as Kutztown only managed 4-16 from downtown, but in the end it didn’t matter since they allowed the Golden Bears to shoot 50 percent from the field.
Both Hegamin and Roberts stressed the importance of rebounding better and playing better defense.
“It all starts with rebounding. If we don’t rebound we can’t push the ball up the floor as well,” Hegamin said.
“Coach told us at the beginning of the game to not look for our man and just get back into the paint (on transition) and we just didn’t do that,” said Roberts.
“As Kehinde preaches all the time, it really does start on the defensive end,” Hegamin said. When told about the 50 percent shooting percentage by Kutztown, Hegamin added, “That’s not going to win basketball games.”
“If we just concentrate on our defense and getting boards, we can beat teams,” said Roberts.
The Rams continue PSAC East play on Wednesday night at Cheyney and then travel to East Stroudsburg on Saturday night. The Rams will have their hands full with both teams but these are the types of teams that they must learn to beat and do so quickly if they want to be a contender for the PSAC East crown.
Preseason prognosticators liked Cheyney as the third best team in the PSAC East behind Millersville and Kutztown, and ESU was slated to end up right behind Cheyney. Both teams had a player named to the preseason All-PSAC East team. Cheyney was represented by Ed Braswell and ESU’s player was Channon Easley.
Matt Chandik is a third-year undecided student. He can be reached at MC618553@wcupa.edu