It was a memorable open to the season for the Webster University men’s basketball season, especially for junior college transfers Dietrick Sooter and Roman Robinson.
The Gorloks fell in overtime to Bluffton University 79-76 on Nov. 19 at Grant Gymnasium. But the game wouldn’t have gone to the extra five-minute period if not for Sooter’s late-game heroics and Robinson’s stat-stuffing performance.
With Webster behind 68-65 and the clock winding down, Sooter, a junior guard, took a pass from sophomore guard Hollis Edwards and knocked down a game-tying 3-pointer from the top of the key with less than two seconds left. Sooter’s clutch shot sent the game into overtime and the home crowd into a frenzy.
With the score deadlocked at 76 in overtime, Bluffton held for the last shot. Senior Mychal Hill drained a buzzer-beating 3-pointer of his own to give Bluffton, located in northwest Ohio, the win.
Robinson, a junior forward, had a breakout game to help keep the Gorloks close. Robinson recorded a double-double, as he shot 9 of 14 from the field for a game-high 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, seven of which were offensive. He also had five blocks, three steals and two assists.
Robinson said his pre-game tradition of praying to God helped him prepare for the season opener.
“He’s always guiding me and helping me with different things,” Robinson said. “You ask him for anything, he’ll give it to you. I ask God just to calm me down and to help me play hard … My belief in God keeps me confident.”
Robinson had an extra incentive to play well. Members of his family flew from California to St. Louis to watch the season-opener. The trip took eight hours — including a four-hour layover — and the Robinsons made it to Grant Gymnasium five minutes before tipoff.
“I was talking to them on the phone, telling them they could watch me online,” Robinson said. “But they were coming down here, so they surprised me. They told me they weren’t going to come until January. It was emotional. But then it was like, my family is here, I’ve got to play hard.”
After coming out of halftime with a 30-28 lead, Bluffton stretched its advantage to 47-40 with 13:17 left to play. Webster went on an 11-4 run to tie the game at 51-all, and the two teams traded leads after that.
In addition to Sooter and Robinson, freshman guards Danny Zehner and Ahmad Smith and freshman forward Lawrence Williams played their first games in a Webster uniform.
“People have to understand it’s a work in progress,” Webster coach Chris Bunch said. “I hate to hear people talk about making an excuse for teams, and I told my guys I’m not going to make the excuse, ‘Well, you’re young and (there are) so many new people.’ But there is some truth to that.
“You’ve got to get out there and play some games, figure out who can do what, what you need to be doing and what you don’t need to be doing. We’ve got a tough nonconference schedule, so a lot of these teams leave you little room for error … I think the potential is there for them to be a very good team this year.”
Webster loses by 16 points in second game of season
The Gorloks fell to 0-2 on the season with an 89-73 loss to Maryville College on Nov. 20 at Grant Gymnasium. Maryville, which is located in eastern Tennessee, has qualified for the NCAA Division III tournament 17 times in the past 21 seasons.
Webster jumped out to a 12-3 lead and held a 32-22 advantage with five and a half minutes remaining in the first half. But the Scots went on a 21-13 run to overtake the Gorloks and enter halftime with a 45-43 lead.
After Webster tied the game at 45 in the second half, Maryville took the lead and never gave it up. The Gorloks stayed within striking distance and cut Maryville’s lead to 72-65 with six and a half minutes left. But Maryville took advantage of missed shots and turnovers and held on for the win.
“As I told them today, ‘You’ve got 23 games, don’t push the panic button just yet,’” Bunch said. “Everybody is going to have a bad game or two here and there — hang in there.”
Sophomore forward Stefan Whittingham paced the Gorloks with 20 points on 8 of 16 shooting. Whittingham pulled down eight rebounds, six of which were offensive, and recorded three steals and two assists. Sooter was the only other Gorlok to score in double figures, as he notched 14 points on 4 of 11 shooting.
Next up for Webster is the Snyder Classic at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, Neb. The Gorloks play Luther College on Nov. 25 at 5:30 p.m. The next day, Webster takes on Nebraska Wesleyan at 7:30 p.m. The Gorloks begin conference play on Nov. 30, as they host Westminster College at 8 p.m.
For the Gorloks to reach their potential, Robinson said the first-year and returning players will have to learn and accept their responsibilities.
“Everybody knowing their roles and accepting their roles — I think that’s going to be the biggest issue because a lot of people were egotistic in the beginning,” Robinson said. “That happens when you’ve got players who don’t know each other. Everybody’s trying to shine over each other.
“But in the end, we can’t go nowhere as individuals. We go as a team.”