Help wanted: 4th-place Gorloks’ SLIAC tourney chances up in the air

Webster coach Chris Bunch (second from right) takes some time to talk with a frustrated sophomore guard Ahmad Smith during the second half of Webster’s defeat to Spalding. Smith made 4 off his 11 field goal attempts (36.4 percent) for 9 points in 30 minutes played. PHOTO BY BRITTANY RUESS.

A nonconference win and conference loss makes the picture a little less clear for the Webster University men’s basketball team in regards to the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship tournament.

The nonconference win came after an impactful loss. The Gorloks hosted the team sitting on top of the SLIAC on Thursday, Feb. 7 at Grant Gymnasium. On senior night, the Gorloks lost to Spalding University (Ky.) 73-64.

Webster jumped out to a 10-3 lead within the first four minutes against the Golden Eagles, but Spalding then went on a 12-0 run to make it a new ballgame. The Gorloks trailed by 9 points at halftime, but opened up the second half with a 9-0 run of their own which tied the game up at 44-44. With 12 minutes remaining, the Golden Eagles took the lead for good and the Gorloks fell to 8-5 in SLIAC competition. Spalding’s win kept them in first place in the SLIAC and moved their record to 16-7 overall (13-1 SLIAC).

“In the beginning, we were playing good defense,” Zehner said. “Then, we kind of went away, had some mental breakdowns, and after that we just lost our confidence a little bit.

“Once they started scoring on us, everyone tried to do their own thing, and we went away from playing as a team, and that obviously didn’t help out. So, that hurt us, but other than that we played pretty well, but we just struggled in the end.”

Senior guard Dietrick Sooter led the Gorloks with 17 points, and senior forward Roman Robinson scored 12 points in the loss. Along with Sooter and Robinson, senior guard Jurgen Rama, senior forward Derrell Lee and senior guard Cody Bradfisch were honored before the game.

Junior center Jarrod Huskey said the loss was difficult for the team even outside of what it did to the SLIAC standings.

“We knew that was a really important one to have going forward and really trying to get some momentum in the future” Huskey said. “(Spalding has) only been beaten once in conference so far. If we could have been that second team, it would have really given us a boost going on in the rest of the season. We really wanted it. It was a tough one not to get.”

After four straight home games, Webster hit the road — to take on the Stars — in search of their first nonconference road win since November 2012. The Gorloks found what they were looking for with a 76-69 win over Dominican University in River Forest, Ill., on Saturday, Feb. 9. The victory closed out the nonconference portion of Webster’s 2012-2013 schedule.

The Gorloks shot 50 percent from the field in the contest played on Saturday, Feb. 9, and were up by as many as 19 points in the first half. The Stars cut the lead to 7 before halftime, and the Gorloks led 36-29 at the break.

“(Against) Dominican, we came out well,” sophomore guard Danny Zehner said. “We played as a team and when we got ahead, I guess we let up on it and stopped playing as hard as we did.”

Early in the second half, the Stars made a 3-point shot, and the Gorloks’ lead was down to four points. However, that’s as close as the Stars would get. In the end, the Gorloks came away with a victory over Dominican. Zehner led the team with 19 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists in the game. Sophomore guard Ahmad Smith chipped in 12 points.

Webster University Senior guard Cody Bradfisch works the ball around Spalding University (Ky.) forward Domonique Sangester in the first half of Webster’s 73-64 loss to the Golden Eagles on Thursday, Feb. 7 at Grant Gymnasium. PHOTO BY BRITTANY RUESS.

With the win over Dominican, the Gorloks evened their overall record to 11-11. The Gorloks play at Fontbonne University (Mo.) (7-15, 5-8 SLIAC) on Wednesday, Feb. 13 at 8 p.m., followed by another road game at Blackburn College (Ill.) (2-21, 2-12 SLIAC) on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 3 p.m. The Gorloks finish the regular season with a make-up game against Principia College (Ill.) (0-22, 0-13 SLIAC) at Grant Gymnasium on Monday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m.

Zehner said the team is focused on making the tournament and winning out, but they are taking it game by game.

Webster and MacMurray College (Ill.) (11-11, 8-5 SLIAC) are currently tied for the fourth and final spot in the SLIAC tournament. In order for the Gorloks to get into the tournament, they must win their remaining three games and MacMurray must lose one of their three games. MacMurray plays Blackburn at home on Feb. 13, at Greenville College (Ill.) (9-14, 4-10 SLIAC) on Feb.16, and hosts Eureka College (Ill.) (14-8, 10-4 SLIAC) on Tuesday, Feb. 19.

Huskey said the team knows it needs help to guarantee the Gorloks a spot in the conference championship tournament, but he also said the team is preparing for the best-case scenario.

“I know what it really comes down to is Eureka beating MacMurray, which I think that’s very possible,” Huskey said. “It’s not a stretch that it could happen. I think I talked to Ahmad (Smith) today, and we’re not even really thinking, ‘What if we don’t make the tournament?’

“We’re already thinking we will make the tournament. We’re going to get ready to play in the conference tournament. We’re going to take our business. We’re in control. We just think that we’ll get the help that we need, and we’ll make it. Once we get in the conference tournament, anything can happen from there.”

— Tim Doty contributed to this report.

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