In its first two conference games, the Webster University men’s basketball team used sizzling shooting and suffocating defense to turn close halftime leads into blowout victories. The Gorloks have now won three straight contests and are perched atop the conference standings with a 2-0 record.
Webster led the Greenville College (Ill.) Panthers, who entered the contest with a 5-0 record, by just 3 points at the break, 42-39. But a 20-4 Webster run early in the second half propelled the Gorloks to a lopsided 91-61 victory on Saturday, Dec. 1 in Greenville, Ill.
Three days earlier, Webster held a 41-33 halftime advantage over the Blackburn College (Ill.) Beavers in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opener for both squads. But the Gorloks scored 10 unanswered points out of the break and forced 17 second-half turnovers to romp to an 87-54 win on Wednesday, Nov. 28 at Grant Gymnasium.
“Somebody asked me, ‘I want to know what you’re saying to those guys at halftime — you must be really lighting them up,” Webster coach Chris Bunch said with a big laugh. “Actually, to the contrary, it’s not been the case where we’ve went in and been upset about where we were or had to change a lot of things.
“ … The first half (of games) a lot of the times is kind of feeling each other out like boxers at the beginning of a boxing match. You’re trying to see what the other team is trying to do and you’re trying to settle in and get the things done that you want to do.”
In their 30-point victory over Greenville (5-1 overall, 1-1 SLIAC), the Gorloks shot 47.4 percent from the field while holding the Panthers to 31.5 percent shooting. Greenville made just 6 of 31 3-point attempts. Webster outrebounded the Panthers by 18.
Senior guard Cody Bradfisch scored a season-high 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Sophomore center Aaron Griffin (17 points, 14 rebounds) and senior forward Roman Robinson (17 points, 12 rebounds) both recorded double-doubles. With the victory, Webster improved to 4-2 overall and 2-0 in the SLIAC.
Robinson said the back-to-back blowout wins will boost the team’s confidence level. He said the victories will also put the SLIAC on notice, as the first-place Gorloks were picked to finish fifth in the SLIAC coaches’ preseason poll.
“It was very important, especially since we were predicted to come in fifth place, which that even makes me blink my eyes,” Robinson said. “People have their predictions and all that. Some people get told they’ll never be nothing and become the greatest. So that stuff right there is just encouraging to me, to see somebody rank us below and then we’re blowing teams out.”
In their 33-point onslaught of Blackburn (0-7 overall, 0-2 SLIAC), the Gorloks shot 47.1 percent from the field while the Beavers shot 35.5 percent. Webster leading scorer Ahmad Smith, a sophomore guard, poured in 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Robinson notched 12 points and Bradfisch chipped in 11.
Six games into the season, five Webster players average double digits in points. Bunch said his team’s balance on the offensive end is a big plus and will be a key factor in determining how good of a season the Gorloks will have.
Webster prepares to face WashU
Next up for Webster is a game against the Washington University Bears (7-0 overall), the No. 6-ranked Division-III team in the nation. The Gorloks and Bears will lock horns on Wednesday, Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. at Grant Gymnasium.
WashU won D-III national championships in 2008 and 2009. The Bears hold an all-time record of 18-2 against Webster. Last season, the Bears pummeled the Gorloks 74-50 at WashU. Two seasons ago, Webster toppled WashU 61-58 at Grant Gymnasium.
“It’s going to be a very tough game and we’re going to have to play well,” Bunch said. “And at the same time, two years ago, we did beat them. You’ve got to go into every game feeling like you can win it, or what’s the point of playing it? We’re going to do some things to prepare for them then go out there on Wednesday night and give it our best shot.”
Griffin, a newcomer to Webster after attending Rust College in Mississippi last year, said he’s excited to face a nationally-ranked team.
“I was on the website and I saw that they were ranked,” Griffin said. “I think, especially me, we’re going to be up for the challenge, and I love a challenge like that. Them being ranked, they’re 7-0 and they’re thinking they’ve got to play Webster — ‘Oh, you know that’s an easy game.’ But I’ll tell you, we ain’t going to back down. We’re going to come with the same intensity we come with every game with one purpose: to play together and get a win.”