When the semester break ended this season, the Webster University men’s basketball team was 4-9 and had lost its seventh game in a row. However, a five-game winning streak from Jan. 15 to 26 has placed the Gorloks back to .500 and in a three-way tie for second place in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The Gorloks are 9-9 overall and possess a 7-3 mark in SLIAC play.
The win streak — which comes against SLIAC opponents — grew to five games with victories over MacMurray College (Ill.) on the road on Wednesday, Jan. 23 and a home victory over the Eureka College Red Devils (Ill.) on Saturday, Jan. 26.
“It’s pretty big,” senior guard Cody Bradfisch said. “We just tried to really take one game at a time. With a little bit of luck and hard play, we’ve come out with a few close ones. We’re just trying to ride that streak right now and see how far we can take it.”
The most recent victory over Eureka was a 75-68 contest in favor of the Gorloks at Grant Gymnasium. In the game, Bradfisch came off the bench to score 14 points, but starter sophomore guard Danny Zehner also netted 14 points. The balanced scoring attack also saw sophomore guard Ahmad Smith and junior center Jarrod Huskey score 13 points each.
Coach Chris Bunch said the double-digit contributions from multiple players are an advantage for the Gorloks.
“For other teams preparing for you, they can’t just focus on one guy,” Bunch said. “When you just rely on one or two people all the time, if those people aren’t scoring, then it’s hard for your team to continue to build leads, continue to play well. If you have four or five, six different guys capable of scoring in double figures, now all of the sudden they’ve got to guard everybody, and somewhere on the floor there’s a mismatch. You’ve just got to try to find it and take advantage of it.”
The Gorloks took advantage of those mismatches in the game against Eureka. Webster totaled 17 assists — 6 more than the game at MacMurray — and passed the ball around more often, something both Bradfisch and Bunch took note of.
“I thought we played hard,” Bunch said after the Eureka game. “I liked our balance today (Jan. 26) — two guys with 13 and two guys with 14. We talk a lot about that — moving the ball around and getting the ball to the open guy and getting the best shot every trip. … We were moving the ball around a little better and passing it around … it was a good win.”
Before the win over the Red Devils, three days earlier Webster traveled to MacMurray in Jacksonville, Ill. Webster tipped off its current win streak with an upset, 66-65 win over Westminster College (Mo.) on Jan. 15. In the Westminster game, Webster overcame a 13-point deficit with 11:34 left to play in the second half.
Webster came out on top against the MacMurray Highlanders with another one-point win, 64-63. The Webster men’s basketball team once again saw themselves down by 13 points with 13:52 left to play against another team ahead of them in the SLIAC standings.
Another balanced scoring attack helped the Gorloks claw back and seal the victory. Four Gorloks recorded double digits in the points column — senior guard Dietrick Sooter (16 points), senior forward Roman Robinson (15), Smith (12) and Zehner (10).
“Every game you’re in close with, it’s always a learning experience,” Bradfisch said. “At Westminster, we were down that whole game. Toward the second half, things weren’t going really well in the middle of it. We just stuck together. Early in the season, we might have just given up. With MacMurray — that’s always a tough place to play — we just hung around. We were down 12 with about 10 minutes to go, and we just hung around and kept battling. Tonight (Jan. 26), we had the team on the road and we end up putting them away. All those games are a plus.”
In order to keep the win streak rolling along, Bradfisch said the team needs to bring the same effort it’s been using in its close contests.
“We’ve got to realize who’s hot, who’s in a good rhythm, and get them the ball,” Bradfisch said.
The Gorloks will continue their five-game home stand against SLIAC opponents. On Wednesday, Jan. 30, Webster hosts Westminster (14-5, 7-3 SLIAC) — one of the three teams Webster is in a tie for second place with — at Grant Gymnasium at 8 p.m. On Saturday, Feb. 2, the Gorloks host Greenville College (Ill.) at Grant Gymnasium at 3 p.m.
Bunch said the back-and-forth atmosphere of the conference this season gives Webster a reason to play for a spot in the postseason tournament.
“We’re still in the hunt,” Bunch said. “We’re in a three-way tie for second with Westminster and Eureka, and here comes Westminster Wednesday night (Jan. 30). … Every game is huge, and we have to come out with a lot of energy.”