By ASHLEY BRUCE
Despite the low number of fans in the stands at the William M. Anderson Center this past weekend with students still yet to return from Thanksgiving break, the University of Mary Washington men’s basketball team pulled out two home wins against North Carolina Wesleyan College and Shenandoah University. The pair of wins improved the Eagles to 4-1 on the young season and got them votes as a top-25 DIII team in the country.
Head Coach Rod Wood attributes this strong start to hard work.
“We are working harder than we have in the past,” Wood said. “Preparation and meeting opportunity equals luck.”
On Saturday, the Eagles routed visiting NC Wesleyan 95-66. UMW had a strong start to the game, jumping out to a commanding 25-6 lead.
“It was our offensive production that won this game,” Wood said. “We shot better than the other team and this is the best shooting we have had all year.”
UMW made 54 percent of their shots for the game, attempted 22 more shots than N.C. Wesleyan, and shot a blistering 49 percent on their 3-pointers. Meanwhile, the Battling Bishops were held to just 44 percent shooting overall and connected on just two of their 14 3-point attempts. The Eagles also won the turnover battle with a plus-11 advantage, as UMW limited their giveaways to 15 while forcing 26 N.C. Wesleyan turnovers.
The top scorer for the game was senior Ryan Farrar with 16 points, while sophomore Bradley Riester added 15 points to his name and fellow sophomore E.J. Willis chipped in 13 points for the Eagles. Walt Smith controlled the pace for UMW, as he amassed 11 assists in the victory.
After the big win on Saturday, the Eagles hosted Shenandoah on Sunday and found similar results against the Hornets. The game ended in another double-digit win for UMW, as the Eagles tallied their fourth win of the season in the 67-49 victory. Wood said that while the first game was a credit to the Eagles offense, Sunday’s win was a different story.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well,” Wood said. “The defense is what carried us in that game.”
The Eagles shot just 35 percent from the field and didn’t have the same touch from long range they had in Saturday’s win, as UMW hit just four of their 17 3-point attempts. But the Mary Washington defense held the Hornets to just 39 percent shooting, and did it without fouling as Shenandoah only attempted eight free throws compared to the 38 attempts for UMW.
Even though the Eagles tallied a victory on Sunday, senior Ryan Henderson thought that the team could have played better and looked for ways the team could improve going forward.
“In [Sunday’s] game we could’ve turned the ball over less because we had 17 turnovers,” Henderson said. “We started off slow, but we usually look to start off strong. Offensively, we could’ve executed a lot better.”
Shenandoah began the game by playing a matchup zone defense and when the Eagles took the lead, the Hornets switched their defensive style to man-to-man. Wood attributed Shenandoah’s defensive switch to the win on Sunday.
“When we took the lead, the other team was pressed to score and sped the game up and played a type of game which was more suited for us,” Wood said.
Smith had 14 points, three assists and three steals to lead the Eagles. Henderson and sophomore Matt Boward were also among the top scorers in the game, as Boward poured in 12 points while Henderson finished the game with 12 points and six rebounds.
Wood was happy with the Eagles performance overall this weekend, especially because it was a holiday weekend.
“Shenandoah was an easy game to look over because it was hard to get motivated for it,” Wood said. “It’s not one of the better teams, it was at the end of Thanksgiving break, nobody was there…but it’s about learning how to play to your abilities each game and not playing up or down to your opponent. I was pleased with the fact that they did that.”
Henderson agreed with his coach.
“The team is very pleased with our performance,” Henderson said. “With these two wins we were able to receive votes as one of the top-25 teams in the nation.”
The men’s basketball team was back in action last night, as they traveled to Stevenson University in Maryland to take on the Mustangs. The men were victorious, taking a 63-53 win to improve to 5-1 on the season.
The Eagles defense was the story of the game, as they held Stevenson to just 30 percent shooting from the field and forced 26 turnovers in the win.
Senior Tad Dickman recorded a double-double to lead Mary Washington, tallying 19 points and 10 rebounds. Reister chipped in with 15 points and eight rebounds, while sophomore E.J. Willis also scored in double figures with his 11-point contribution.