Written by Nicholas Pierce
Austin College, DePauw University and Trinity University are contemplating one important question right now: “Where in the world did the Southwestern men’s basketball team come from?” All three teams suffered stunning defeats to the Pirates. In the last two weeks of the season, our Pirate ballers caught fire, propelling themselves on a run into the SCAC tournament that no one saw coming.
This streak began with Southwestern’s run in the middle of February, starting with a crucial, must-win home game against Austin College. The Southwestern men’s team met the Kangaroos and emerged victorious after a difficult, defensive effort. Yet, this win was more important than just a SCAC conference bid. As first-year James Davenport said before the Pirates’ journey to Arkansas, “Hopefully this win will get each of us fired up. We have been playing well throughout the season, but we have not been playing play-off basketball. Against Austin College, we raised our game to another level. If we bring that type of attitude and play that aggressively on both ends of the floor, we will be a very difficult team to beat.”
Southwestern then faced off against DePauw University in their first conference tournament match-up. Southwestern should have been intimidated, having previously been crushed by DePauw 81-54. Yet, our Pirates did not come in to the game the least bit phased or scared, bringing their newfound confidence to the court. The Pirates had an incredible first half against one of the best teams in the conference, shooting lights out from everywhere on the floor. The Pirates shot 50% from the field, 55.6% from three-point range, and 61.5% from the free throw line. Sophomore guard Nick Caputo was a force in the first half, coming off of the bench for the Pirates. Caputo went red hot and sank three from deep and converted three free throws for 12 points in just 10 minutes of play. Sophomore forward Jonathan Brown also served a huge roll, scoring 11 first half points. Southwestern went into halftime up by eight, 39-31.
The second half was a different story for the Pirates. DePauw came out with a vengeance, going on a few scoring streaks throughout the half. Yet, junior Zack Bergstrom seemed to hit a three pointer every time DePauw was able to make up ground and pull close. The Pirates finished off the game at the free throw line, knocking off a conference giant in the first round. Southwestern’s balanced attack and rebounding efforts were the key in their victory. Four players were able to reach double figures, with Brown scoring 16 points, Barber dropping 13, Caputo ending with 12 points and Bergstrom following with 10 points. In addition to this, Southwestern out-rebounded the Tigers for the game 44-29, dominating the boards.
As first-year James Davenport said, “This victory was huge for us. With the win we can bury a nasty 30-point loss from earlier in the season. It feels great to get revenge and at the same time some momentum as we advance to the semi-finals against Trinity on Saturday.”
Hoping to continue their streak and do what few considered impossible, Southwestern then went against rival school Trinity University in their third meeting of the year. Having lost to Trinity the previous two regular season games, Southwestern was hoping to make, as junior Anthony Cox said, “the third time a charm.” Luckily for Southwestern, Cox decided to take no chances on the matter. Cox proved to be unstoppable against Trinity, shooting 70 percent from the floor, dropping 18 points, and dishing out five assists. He did everything on Saturday night, playing some fantastic team basketball as well as putting on a one-man show. As Trinity coach Pat Cunningham put it, the Pirates and especially Cox “were penetrating to the hoop and finding people on the floor” all night long. Cox made “big basket after big basket,” putting Southwestern on his back.Senior Andrew McDonald also chipped in with 15 points for the Pirates, pushing them to a 68-63 victory and continuing a miraculous run.
When interviewed after the game, Cox stated, “As a team we’ve come a long way. We’ve been able to stick together and bounce off the losses. Playing team ball, that’s what we’re all about right now.” With their victory, Southwestern beat Trinity for the first time since the 2004-2005 season and pushed themselves into the SCAC tournament championship.
Southwestern’s final game of the season came against Centre. Unfortunately for the Pirates, Centre senior guard Kris Bentley made the night his. He tied an SCAC Tournament single-game record with eight three-pointers and added 31 points. Bentley propelled Centre to its second SCAC Tournament championship with a 72-67 win over our Southwestern University Pirates. The Pirates showed a lot of heart and fought hard in an effort to continue their late season run, but fell just short. Once again, Southwestern was paced by junior guard Anthony Cox. Cox finished the day with 16 points, seven assists, four rebounds and shot 7-for-12 from the floor. McDonald also scored a team-high 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting and grabbed five rebounds. Although Southwestern did not come back SCAC champions, they came back to Georgetown having experienced, as Caputo smiled and said, “the greatest weekend ever.”