Published: February 25, 2016
The University’s men’s basketball had its season ended in the Landmark Conference semifinals after falling to Susquehanna University 77-72.
The Royals fought back from an early deficit. The Royals rallied back after being down 41-25 at halftime.
Senior Brendan Boken led the Royals in a, scoring 24 points while shooting 10-18 from the field.
Wednesday’s game was the same matchup as last year’s Landmark Conference semifinals, although last year the Royals hosted Susquehanna.
In last year’s meeting, the Royals beat Susquehanna 67-53. Following the win against Susquehanna, the Royals went on to win the Landmark Conference championship against Catholic University.
It was the sixth time the Royals won the Landmark Conference championship in the eight years of the Conference’s existence.
The Royals entered the postseason with a lot of momentum, ending the regular season on a hot streak. The Royals finished the regular season posting a record of 8-1 in the final nine games of the season.
The Royals did not coast for the entire year though. A handful of close games made the team realize they needed to make improvements.
Sophomore guard Kevin Doolan said the team’s focus on improving its defense helped lead to their late-season surge.
“Later on in the season, we committed to improving our defense. We had a stretch where we had five to six close games,” Doolan said, prior to Wednesday’s game. “But about two-thirds into the season we started to play a lot better defense. It helped the whole team, since we like to play the power game with our two bigs down low.”
From Jan. 5-27, five of the Royals’ seven games were decided by seven points or fewer. After Jan. 27, the Royals did not lose a game until their season finale.
Doolan also cited the team’s leadership as a main reason for their success.
“We have four senior captains, Brendan (Boken), Pat (Calvey), Marcus (Thomas) and Brian (Farrell),” Doolan said. “They all do a great job keeping us focused and holding us accountable. They know when to keep it light and when to focus. They’ve brought me under their wing too, helping me become more of a leader as a sophomore.”
The possibility of “three-peating” as Landmark Conference Champions was an enticing thought, and the Royals knew they have to stay focused. By staying mentally prepared in practice, Doolan said the team is keeping its focus.
“I don’t think it’s a distraction. We all know how good it feels to win and we all know how important it is,” Doolan said. “We all have the right mindset and we are not losing focus. To stay focused we all go hard in practice and give it everything we have.”
Senior forward Brendan Boken said the way the team ended the regular season should help him in the postseason.
“We had an eight-game winning streak during the season, so we’re feeling good about ourselves. The way we ended the season should definitely help us as we enter the postseason,” Boken said.
While the team remained confident, it knew Susquehanna posed a big challenge. Susquehanna boasted a regular-season record of 22-3, and was ranked as the 16th best team in the country.
“Obviously, we can’t overlook Susquehanna. They’re ranked 16th in the country, and they haven’t lost much at home. It’s going to be tough down there,” Boken said.
Entering the game, Boken said the focus would be the Royals’ defense, as well as the way the team is able to communicate under pressure.
“We’ve just been playing great defense and have been communicating very well. It’s going to be very loud against Susquehanna, so making sure we’re communicating is going to be key,” Boken said. “They love to shoot the ball and they pass the ball around very well, so playing good defense is going to be key.”
That was the approach the Royals took last time the two teams met, and the efforts worked in their favor. Boken echoed Doolan’s claims, saying defense would once again be something that can benefit the Royals against the offensively dyamic Susquehanna squad.
“We handled them very well down there last time we played,” Boken said. “We held them to about 25 percent shooting, so I think if we can get that same type of success we’ll be good.”
The Royals finished their season 19-7, including a conference record of 11-5.
The men’s basketball team will look to rebound next year and build on this year’s positives.
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