Men’s Hoops Open with Victory and Loss

Matt Oja

The Raider men’s basketball team opened its season this week, splitting a pair of games in the Iowa sub-regional of the Guardians Classic.

In first-round action on Monday night, Colgate defeated Utah Valley State, 55-42. The Raiders came out focused; after opening the scoring drive with a deep two-point jumper by junior tri-captain Jon Simon, Colgate pounded the ball inside against the taller front line of the Wolverines. This game-plan paid off early, as senior Marc Daniels and sophomore Kendall Chones scored easy buckets in the paint and Colgate raced out to an early 9-2 lead.

Colgate’s success on offense was matched by its defensive intensity. Senior tri-captain Alvin Reed and the other Colgate guards put pressure on the Wolverines’ ball-handlers all night, coming up with eight steals and denying entry passes to their big men. In the end, Utah Valley State turned the ball over 20 times, which resulted in 20 Raider points.

Colgate set the tone early in the first half, when they opened up a 28-14 lead. This also resulted from a lack of execution by Utah Valley State, who shot 27.3 percent from the floor. Unlike last year, when Colgate struggled to find an inside presence, the big men took some of the burden off Colgate’s guards. The veteran Raider backcourt of Reed and Simon combined for six points in the first half as the front line picked up the slack.

The second half was more of the same as Reed came up with a steal and took it the distance for an uncontested lay-up 14 seconds into the half. Colgate would extend the lead to a game-high 17 points, at 35-18, before Utah Valley State got on the board.

The Wolverines had a quick 11-4 run, but six points from Chones and a free throw by sophomore center Peter Minchella put Colgate back up by 15. One last push by the opponents again trimmed Colgate’s lead to 10 with 6:58 remaining, but a jumper by senior Jon Foss started another Raider spurt. A driving lay-up by Reed and a Foss three-pointer with the shot-clock winding down put the game away.

In the end, Colgate’s tenacity on defense was too much for the Wolverines to overcome. Although the teams ended up with 30 rebounds apiece, Colgate made huge improvements on the glass since last year. In holding Utah Valley State to 35.3 percent shooting for the game, Colgate also showed that its defense is more than capable.

With the win, Colgate advanced to play the hometown Hawkeyes of Iowa. Ranked 20th nationally in the Associated Press and Coaches’ Polls, Iowa proved to be a tougher opponent than Utah Valley State. Indeed, the Hawkeyes jumped all over Colgate, starting the game with a 25-9 run. Balanced scoring by Iowa, which had eight players find the scoring column in the first half, pushed them to a 42-24 halftime lead.

Meanwhile, aside from 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting by sophomore guard Kyle Roemer, the Raiders found few bright spots. A rolled ankle suffered by Simon made Colgate’s outlook for the second half even worse.

Recapturing the intensity with which they had played the night before, the Raiders came out in the second half and silenced the Carver-Hawkeye Arena crowd of 8,526. With increased pressure on the ball, tougher rebounding and Chones beginning to operate at will down low, Colgate opened the half with a quick 8-3 run.

After Reed hit back-to-back three-pointers and Chones scored lay-ups on consecutive possessions, the score stood 49-43 with 13:34 to play. The Raiders were right back in the ballgame.

Colgate’s pressure defense, however, affected the Raiders as much as the Hawkeyes.

“We dug ourselves a hole in the first half – Iowa did a great job of taking the game to us,” Colgate head coach Emmett Davis said. “In the second half, we came out and played with the intensity we wanted to. We paid attention to detail defensively for a 10-minute period. Then we blew a gasket, we just ran out of steam.”

With Simon out and Colgate’s guards tiring, Iowa took back the momentum. Iowa’s Greg Brunner made several big plays in scoring a team-high 16 points and pulling down eight rebounds. The final score of 73-51 was misleading, since the Raiders were in the game until the final Iowa push. For Colgate, Chones led all scorers with 20 points, while Reed scored 11 and Roemer tallied 12. Chones also grabbed eight rebounds.

“Kendall battled, but we need to get him the ball more,” Davis said. “He needs to get more than 15 shots.”

Colgate will take its 1-1 record back to Cotterell Court tonight, with an 8 p.m. matchup against the Florida Atlantic Owls, coached by former Notre Dame and North Carolina head coach Matt Doherty.