Gorloks rebound from loss by edging Eagles 61-52
The Webster University men’s basketball team just went through their most tumultuous week of the season. Two days after their 12-game winning streak was snapped by Blackburn College (5-17), the Gorloks responded by beating Spalding University and regaining possession of first place in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
By falling to Webster 61-52 on Feb. 11 in Grant Gymnasium, the Golden Eagles had their six-game winning streak snapped and dropped to 11-3 in SLIAC play. Spalding had temporarily tied Webster atop the SLIAC standings before their loss.
Webster, which is 16-5 overall and 11-2 in the SLIAC, holds a half-game lead over Spalding as of Feb. 15. By virtue of defeating the Golden Eagles in both of their two head-to-head match-ups, Webster would win the regular season conference title if they end up tying Spalding for first place.
The Gorloks had one day of practice sandwiched between their SLIAC games against Blackburn and Spalding. Webster coach Chris Bunch used the practice to get the Gorloks past the stunning loss to Blackburn and prepared for the Spalding game.
“When I was a younger man, I probably would have went in there and ripped everybody,” Bunch said. “We would have had a two-hour practice of grinding, hacking, slapping and running to get a point across. I didn’t want to wear everybody down too much because I knew (the Spalding) game was going to wear us down plenty.”
Bunch said he used the practice to talk to his team about getting back to fundamentals.
“We just talked about doing the things that we need to do to win games,” Bunch said. “(The Blackburn) loss was tough, but like I’ve told them all year, you can’t be looking in the rearview mirror at the wins behind you. You’ve got to focus on what’s ahead of you. Got to do the same thing after a loss. You always find more out about a person when they’re going through a rough time than when times are good. The true content of a guy’s character is how does he respond when he’s down a little bit? I thought they responded real well tonight. They responded like they should have.”
Webster played with a much-needed sense of urgency against Spalding in their Feb. 11 game. Behind freshman center Jarrod Huskey’s 14 first-half points, Webster took a 27-17 lead into the break.
“I was just getting good position and the guys got me the ball,” Huskey said. “I didn’t screw up this time.”
Huskey said the practice after the Blackburn loss was used effectively, as it allowed the team to come out ready to battle the Golden Eagles.
“He just gave us a good talk,” Huskey said. “We did an evaluation. He went around and asked what our opinion was of (the Blackburn game) or the whole season; maybe something we need to do differently. It wasn’t yelling or calling everybody out. Sometimes bad things happen and we’ve got to put it behind us. We’ve got to come out and show them the real team.”
Spalding junior DeWhon McAfee, who is averaging over 19 points per game and is a contender for the conference player of the year award, single-handedly kept the Golden Eagles in the game. McAfee scored 13 straight Spalding points to bring the Golden Eagles to within three points, 41-38, with nine minutes left to play.
The teams traded baskets for the next six minutes, and with less than three minutes left, the Gorloks held a 54-50 edge. That’s when McAfee missed an easy dunk, allowing Webster to take control of the momentum and the game.
The Gorloks executed their game plan at both ends of the floor in the game’s closing minutes, as they went on a 7-2 run to close out the win.
“McAfee just got smoking in the second half,” Bunch said. “We caught a real break with him missing that dunk. Spalding is as good of a defensive team as anybody in the league; they really guard you hard and they’re aggressive. We only took four 3’s, got the ball inside and drew a lot of fouls. When we get to the free throw line, we’re winning games. When we’re taking a lot of perimeter shots and not getting to the line much, we’re struggling.”
Webster hit 18 of their 30 free throw tries. Spalding got to the charity stripe eight times. The Golden Eagles made only four of 24 attempts from the 3-point arc and shot under 38 percent from the field. The Gorloks hit over 45 percent of their field goals for the game.
Senior Nick Jones returned to action after missing nearly a game and a half. He scored four points and added four rebounds in 28 minutes of play.
The Gorloks have three regular games remaining before they begin the SLIAC post-season tournament on Feb. 25. Webster travels to Westminster College on Feb. 16 for an 8 p.m. game before returning home to face Greenville College on Feb. 19 at 3 p.m. Webster finishes the season at Fontbonne University on Feb. 22 at 8 p.m.