The search for a win continues for the Webster University men’s basketball team. At 0-4, the Gorloks are off to their worst start to a season since the 2005-2006 campaign, as that team began the season with five straight losses.
Despite showing promise and playing well in long stretches during their first two losses, the Gorloks were blown out in two games this past weekend. Webster fell 68-49 to Luther College on Nov. 25. The next day, Webster lost 81-55 to Nebraska Wesleyan University. Both games took place in Nebraska Wesleyan’s gymnasium as part of the Snyder Classic.
“You’re never happy when you’re 0-4,” coach Chris Bunch said. “I keep talking about level of performance. If we’re going to be a good team, we’ve got to play at a high level whether we’re playing Washington University or somebody that’s not as good. After the last weekend, I was encouraged because I saw for long stretches the kind of level I think these guys can play at, even though we didn’t win either game.
“I don’t know that I necessarily saw it as much this past weekend. There are a lot of things we need to do better. Not to say it was a total loss — there were a couple guys who played better this weekend than they did last weekend. I’m sure it’s going to be a work in progress for a while until everybody gets sorted out. But we definitely need to play better than we played this past weekend.”
Luther (3-1) made it to the second round of the NCAA Division III tournament last year and was picked as the favorite to win the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title this year. Although Webster jumped out to a 5-2 advantage early, the Norse grabbed the lead at 6-5 and wouldn’t trail the rest of the way.
The Gorloks cut the lead to 28-22 with three minutes left in the first half, but that’s as close as they would get. Luther went on an 8-0 run to end the half and had no trouble holding off Webster in the second half. Webster turned the ball over 15 times and was outrebounded by the Norse 41-29.
“Defensive rebounding has hurt us,” Bunch said. “Just watching the Luther game on video, we did a pretty good job most of the trips defensively, and they would score on the second or third shot. We’ve just got to do a better job boxing out and going and getting the ball.”
Junior Cody Bradfisch, sophomore Stefan Whittingham and freshman Ahmad Smith each scored 10 points. Whittingham also pulled down a career-best 11 rebounds.
The Gorloks shot only 37 percent from the field in their 26-point loss to Nebraska Wesleyan (4-1). Webster has yet to shoot above 40 percent in a game this season. Even so, the Gorloks once again jumped out to an early lead at 6-3. But the Prairie Wolves quickly built a double-digit lead and led 39-29 at halftime.
Nebraska Wesleyan, which is a member of the NAIA, went on a 12-2 run to open the second half, which put the game out of reach. The Prairie Wolves shot nearly 55 percent from the field and outrebounded the Gorloks 40-26.
Junior Dietrick Sooter had his best game as a Gorlok, scoring 19 points on 7 of 13 shooting. Smith scored 10 points for the second straight game. No other Webster player recorded more than seven points.
“We’re still trying to find ourselves,” Smith said. “Each person is getting comfortable with each other, so it’s going to take a while for everybody to get comfortable with everybody and how they play. Hopefully we’ll be alright once we get that chemistry intact.”
Bunch said he didn’t set out to have such a difficult nonconference slate of games to open the season.
“I would have liked for the schedule to maybe not be as tough as it is this year, especially with a whole new team,” Bunch said. “Those were the games we could get at the times we wanted to play. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted.”
Webster will try to secure its first win in a Nov. 30 game against Westminster College (2-3) at 8 p.m. at Grant Gymnasium. It’s the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opener for both teams and a rematch of last year’s SLIAC tournament title game, which Webster won 64-47.
After the Westminster game, the Gorloks play four nonconference games before taking a three and a half week break from games for the winter holiday. The Gorloks will host Blackburn College on Jan. 4 for their second SLIAC game.
“We’ve got (21) games left,” Smith said. “There is a little panic and a little frustration, but once we figure things out and gel, I feel like we’re going to be a great team.”
Check out a preview of the men’s basketball team’s game against Westminster College by clicking here.