By Zack Peñalva, Sports Editor
Consistency is difficult. A hallmark of great players, and by extension great teams, is the ability to go out time after time and meet the same high level of performance it takes to win. For the past three seasons, the men’s basketball team has experienced a level of consistency that’s put them at an average record of 18-11.
This year, that consistency has been hard to find. At the beginning of the week, the Eagles sat on a 12-12 record ahead of a tough stretch of three road games in the span of five days. For the first time in three years, a losing record is a real possibility. So what went wrong?
The easiest problem to see is decline in scoring. Last year’s team finished the season with an average of 82 points per game. In the 2015 to 2016 season, the Eagles have seen that average drop to 76. To find out why the Eagles have struggled this year, the first place to look has to be where the scoring has gone.
Last year’s team relied heavily on the combination of CJ Penny and current junior Tyler Smith. That duo averaged around 13ppg each and led the Eagles in total playing time. On top of that, current senior Kyle Lamb led the team in scoring before suffering an ACL tear that ended his season early.
In games this year, production from all of the team’s starters has gone down. Smith still leads the team in minutes, but has seen his efficiency drop working in a system that doesn’t have Penny to partner with him on offense. Also troubling is that the Eagles’ have seen their offense become much more one-dimensional as they’ve struggled to shoot from behind the arc. Last weekend’s game against Cincinnati Christian was a pretty accurate depiction of the season as a whole as Asbury managed to go 6/20 from three-point range.
More often than not, especially late against CCU, the Eagles seemed content to try and force a drive straight towards the basket in the hope of a short-range finish or foul than working a way to creating shot.
For the last bit of the season, the Eagles are in need of some consistency. After losing some of the team’s leaders last year, it seems as though there has been a struggle to adapt offensively to get the full potential out of the new personnel on the team.
One place where consistency has remained is on defense. Opponents are averaging the same total of 76ppg as they were last year, despite the fact that the Eagles are averaging fewer blocks and steals per game.
All told, the team is far from being in trouble. It can lean on its defensive play, while the offense finds its groove. And it stands the reason it will happen, the talent is still very much present and visible in flashes of the Eagles play. The postseason is still on the horizon and a winning record is still very much on the cards.
Freshman Trenton Thompson was quick to acknowledge the team’s struggles but he had a similarly positive outlook. “as we continue into tournament time I see us surprising a lot of people,” he said.”I predict us to make a statement in the tournament on how good and how hardworking this team has become.”
You can catch the Eagles in action when they return home for a game against University of Rio Grande at 8 p.m. on Feb. 9.