Read sports writer Andy Arb's preview of the Gorloks' SLIAC semifinal game against MacMurray College.
Game Preview: Men’s basketball team takes on Westminster
The Webster University men’s basketball team takes on Westminster College in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opener for both teams on Nov. 30 at 8 p.m. at Grant Gymnasium.
The game is a rematch of last season’s SLIAC tournament championship game. Webster was down 42-37 in the second half, but closed the game out on a 27-5 spurt to capture the championship on its home floor.
The Gorloks beat the Blue Jays in two of their three matchups last year. Webster won both their games at Grant Gymnasium — 57-48 on Jan. 19 and 64-47 in the SLIAC championship on Feb. 26. Westminster won 71-62 on its home court on Feb. 16.
“It is a big game,” Webster coach Chris Bunch said. “Westminster has turned into probably one of our biggest rivals in the league. It’s going to be a big game and at the same time — win or lose — there’s still 15 more conference games. It’s not going to end anybody’s season if they lose. You do want to win this one at home. You want to hold serve at home and then win some on the road.”
Westminster coach Matt Mitchell agreed with his coaching counterpart.
“We’ve always had a really good relationship and very good competitive games with Webster,” Mitchell said. “The past six years it’s been us, Webster and somebody else to win the conference. So in that sense, it feels like it’s an important game.
“Now in the grand scheme of things — after the season’s over with — I don’t think either one of us would look back and say, ‘Wow, that was really a big game.’ But because of when it’s happening and both teams trying to find their way a little bit this early in the season, it currently is a big game.”
Both the Gorloks and Blue Jays have struggled out of the gate. Webster is 0-4 to start the season and has dropped its last three games by an average of 20.3 points per game. Westminster is 2-3, but the Blue Jays did win their previous game over Milwaukee School of Engineering 54-46 to gain some confidence heading into the tilt with Webster.
“I would say that right now, looking at scores and all of that, it’s probably two very similar teams,” Mitchell said. “Both programs historically have not been very good in November and early December. My guess is it’s probably going to be a low-scoring, hard basketball game for the players. Whoever figures out a way to score will probably win the game.”
Webster and Westminster are both balanced teams offensively that feature several scoring threats. Junior Dietrick Sooter (12.0 points per game), sophomore Stefan Whittingham (11.2), junior Roman Robinson (10.2) and junior Cody Bradfisch (8.5) can all carry the scoring load for the Gorloks.
Westminster will counter with freshman Verdis Lee (11.6 points per game), junior Skylar Tolson (8.2), sophomore Joe James (6.4) and senior Kurt Kovach (6.2). The winner of this game will have a leg up in the race for the SLIAC crown.