Men’s Basketball Relies on Youth for Success

Forward Mason Lopez '14 goes for more points in the paint against Wesleyan while Taylor Hanson '14 looks on. Photo by Kira Turnbull.

Without a senior on the team, men’s basketball has had to fight hard this season to compete with the physical play in the NESCAC. Coming off a difficult 71-66 loss to 14th ranked Western Connecticut State University, the Camels have gone 4-6 over their last ten games (dating back to January 10), but have shown a lot of progress over the course of the season.

“Our team has improved a lot,” said assistant coach Matt Fava. “Our young guys are really maturing quickly, and our older guys are helping them figure out what college basketball is all about.”

With ten wins, the Camels have equaled last season’s win total with two games still remaining in the season. This record is even more impressive because the Camels’ first four league games came against three opponents ranked in the top ten.

Equally impressive is Conn’s 9-6 record out of conference, including big wins against Hunter College (83-64), the Coast Guard Academy (79-73 OT) and Mitchell College (73-60). Both wins against fellow New London colleges came on the road.

“We have been successful because of our quality of play,” said Fava, “and the wins have been a by-product of that.”

The Camels have been scorching the net from three-point range, hitting nearly four threes for every ten they take (37%). That puts them fourth in the NESCAC in 3-PT field goal percentage despite taking the third most three-pointers in the league. Free throws have not been a problem either for the Camels. They are shooting 78% from the free throw line as a team this season.

However, the Camels are averaging eighteen turnovers per game, and, as the season draws to a close, improving this statistic is becoming increasingly important.

The juniors on the team have stepped up into their leadership positions without any seniors on the roster. Captain Brian Mahoney ’12, along with forward Bobby Bellotti ’12, has taken the team by the reins and motivated players throughout the season.

Moreover, breakout guard Matt Vadas ’14 has emerged as a young general on the court, leading the Camels in scoring (16.6 points per game). He dropped twenty-three points on Bates on January 29. Vadas has also drained 39% of his three-pointers this season. Forward Mason Lopez ’14 has also looked impressive, hitting 47% of his three-point field goals this season, followed by guard/forward Rob Harrigan ’13, who is shooting 40% from behind the arc.

Also essential to the team this year has been center Pete Banos ’13, who at 6’10” has brought an entire new dimension to the Camel game plan.

Conn is looking to finish strong in their final two games of the season, each against NESCAC opponents. This past weekend they defeated Wesleyan 81-73, and will finish off the year against Bowdoin and Colby at home this weekend. Bowdoin and Colby are predicted to be beatable opponents as each sits in the bottom half of the standings.

The Camels play Bowdoin on Friday, February 11 at 6:00 PM and Colby on Saturday, February 12 at 2:00 PM. Both games are home in the Luce Field House. Go out and support the team as it attempts to finish the season on a high note. Just two wins out of the next three conference games are needed to squeak into the NESCAC playoffs and set out for a strong run.

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