The men’s basketball team continued its great play over break, entering the new semester with a 14-1 record (3-1 NESCAC). This past Friday, Bowdoin’s 12-game win streak—the best start in the team’s history—ended when it traveled to Williams, where the Ephs (13-2 overall, 3-1 NESCAC, ranked 10th nationally) ended the perfect start in a 69-64 game.
The Polar Bears held their own in the opening half but entered the intermission down by three. This marked just the second time this season when the team was behind going into halftime this season, and that lack of experience may have hurt the Polar Bears who allowed the Ephs to a 10-0 run early in the second half. The team rallied in the second half and cut the Ephs’ lead to one with just over a minute remaining.
After a defensive stop the Polar Bears had a chance to take the lead but a three-pointer attempt by Grant White ’14 went in-and-out and an Eph grabbed the rebound and was able to ice the game on the free throw line.
“We came out and we were definitely nervous,” said Matt Mathias ’14. “We got off to a terrible start, got down early, but we battled back and Grant had a shot with 15 seconds to give us a two point lead that we all thought was going in.”
“Play enough close games and you’re going to lose one,” he added. “But all in all that wasn’t a bad loss and I think in the long run getting that taste of defeat will be good for us.”
The loss certainly did not slow the team down when, the next day, it headed to Hamilton (8-8 overall, 1-3 NESCAC) and definitively trampled the Continentals 85-66. After a slow opening few minutes, the team caught fire and was out of reach after a 14-point half time lead.
“Talk about a team effort,” said Head Coach Tim Gilbride, “those guys coming off the bench were more important in getting us going then our starters.”
“We wanted to come out with a win after our first loss,” said Mathias, “but, if you’re driving that far to Hamilton you don’t want the bus ride back after a loss so that may have been the biggest motivation.”
Three days after the Hamilton win, the Polar Bears trounced UMaine-Presque Isle to move to 14-1 on the season.
The team opened up the new year by holding off Bridgewater State (10-7) in a 64-59 win. In a balanced scoring effort, four starters—Keegan Pieri ’15, White, Mathias and Andrew Madlinger ’14—each earned double digit points without any one scoring more than 13. John Swords ’15 anchored the team with his play in the paint, and the Polar Bears won the rebounding battle 36-26 against Bridgewater.
As the wins continue to pile up, the team remains collected and continues to execute its balanced game plan.
“I’m real proud of how guys are staying in games whether we have a lead or are down,” said Gilbride. “We’re getting a great effort from everybody—different guys are scoring big some nights, other guys other nights.”
The team opened up conference play later that week with a convincing 64-47 win over Connecticut College (7-7 overall, 1-2 NESCAC). While the starters all played key roles in the win, sixth man Lucas Hausman ’16 continued to be the spark off the bench for the team, scoring a quick 11 in just 18 minutes. Matt Palecki ’16 added another 14 points in just 13 minutes of play.
While Hausman and others’ play has been instrumental to the continued success of the team, Swords’ improved game is possibly the biggest difference from last year’s team.
“John Swords has given us a big presence inside on both ends of the court. People have to focus on him which frees up other guys,” said Gilbride.
“The more touches we can get John in the low post the better for us,” added Mathias. “If he’s scoring and looking for shots they’re going to double down and we’re going to get wide open threes or Keegan will flash high post and hit the mid-range jumper he always knocks down.”
“I’m just having a lot of fun,” said Swords. “I’m not sure if I’ve changed what I’m doing intentionally or changed much at all, but getting back to starting and playing significant minutes is helping me focus and helping my game.”
The following day the Polar Bears welcomed Wesleyan (6-10 overall, 0-3 NESCAC) to Morrell Gymnasium as they extended their undefeated streak to start the season with a 63-54 win. Pieri, Swords, Madlinger and Mathias all reached double-digit points again with Swords adding 12 rebounds to complete the double-double.
Although the streak is over the team is looking forward to more conference play and the heart of the NESCAC schedule.
“It didn’t feel like we were playing above ourselves at all,” said Mathias. “To be honest we won a fair number of games where we haven’t played very well, which I think is exciting because if we end up putting it all together we can be really tough to beat.”
Bowdoin hosts rival Colby tomorrow in Morrell Gym at 4 p.m.