Coming off of one of their most successful seasons in history and returning the entire varsity roster (with the exception of senior captain Jason Mendell ’12), the men’s basketball team opened the year with a slew of tough contests that showed the work it has yet to do. After five games, the Cardinals hold a 3-2 overall record and a 0-1 record in the NESCAC after losing their conference opener to Little Three rival Williams College. Though the result of the game is disappointing for a Cardinals team that is loaded with talent and fully expects to compete for a win every time that it takes the court, it could serve as a motivational tool throughout the campaign as the Cardinals strive to best their historic effort of the past year. Reflecting on a close early-season loss to a hated rival often has a rallying effect, and last year that certainly proved to be the case, as the Cardinals paid back the Ephs for a loss in their conference opener the very next time that the two met. Hopefully history repeats.
The Cardinals opened play this season by hosting the Herb Kenny/Crowne Plaza Tip-Off tournament. The Cardinals played two games in the span of as many days and came away none the worse for wear, as they cruised to a 2-0 record and were never significantly challenged throughout. The first opponent to fall to the 2012-13 Redbirds was SUNY Maritime University. The game was never close from the beginning, and the Cardinals eventually danced away with an astoundingly decisive 104-38 win. Senior quad-captains Derick Beresford and Mike Callaghan led the way in scoring, with Beresford pacing all players with 18 and Callaghan tacking on 17 of his own. Also contributing in a major way was quad-captain Shasha Brown ’13, who distributed 11 assists along with 8 points, which left him one basket short of a double-double. Callaghan managed to achieve this, leading all rebounders with 10.
The next game in the season-opening tournament was against Daniel Webster College, which met a similar fate as Wesleyan’s last opponent. Though with not nearly as lopsided a score, DWC was still blown out by the Cardinals, who won handily 81-54. Wesleyan took control early, leading 40-29 at the half, and only applied more pressure after that, as they rode a strong closing effort to a nearly identical 41-25 second half. The Cardinals were again led by the trio of senior captains, as Beresford took home the scoring title with 27 points. Callaghan also played a similar game and posted his second double-double in as many games by adding 12 rebounds to an impressive 18 points. Brown was the third-leading scorer for the Cardinals, contributing 10 points to go along with his five assists.
The first NESCAC game arrived with much fanfare, but unfortunately the home team dropped a nail-biter 56-48. The Cardinals actually outscored Williams 24-22 in the second half down the stretch, but the damage was done early, as Williams’ 34-24 first half lead proved insurmountable. This is an improvement over their early season loss to Williams last year, in which the Cardinals fell 83-68. Against Williams, it was all Shasha Brown. The senior guard erupted for 25 points, two assists, three rebounds, and a steal for good measure. Perhaps the lack of parity in the game plan was a detriment to Wesleyan, as Brown took 38 percent of Wesleyan’s shots, and Callaghan was a distant second in scoring with nine points. Hopefully the Cardinals can win their next in-conference contest.
The next game saw the Cardinals traveling to New Haven to unsuccessfully do battle with Albertus Magnus. The Cards lost with a score of 82-73, even after being down just two points at half. A strong late surge allowed AM to top Wes by nearly double digits, even though most of the game was much closer. The Cardinals saw familiar contributions from Callaghan, Beresford, and Brown, who scored 23, 17, and 17 points, respectively. Callaghan put together his third double-double of the year by contributing 12 rebounds, while Brown pulled in five boards and dished out five assists. They were decent contributions for a losing effort, though unfortunately the next high scorer, Bill Claflin ’15, only put in six points, so the efforts of Wesleyan’s big three captains did not prove sufficient.
Wesleyan managed to snap its two-game losing streak and get back into the win column as they soundly defeated Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) 99-84. Fresh off of the two disappointing losses, the Redbirds shot out of the gate for a huge (and ultimately insurmountable) 57-31 first half lead. Though they regressed slightly in the second half, the early lead proved more than enough to allow Wesleyan to breeze to an easy win. Wes had an incredibly balanced game play that saw five players score in double figures. Leading the pack was big man Callaghan with 22, though the other scorers were less predictable. Guard BJ Davis ’16 added 19 off the bench for a stellar game, and starting forward Julian Harris ’14 added 16 of his own. Beresford and guard Avery Robinson ’15 rounded out the double-digit scorers with 10 apiece. Harris and Beresford each added five assists, while Beresford played the role of pick-pocket by grabbing a team-high four steals. Also noteworthy was Callaghan’s excellent 87.5percent (7/8) from the free throw line.
The men’s basketball team may have hoped for different results in their two early season losses, but aside from those minor hiccups, they remain in a fine position to continue the winning trend that began last year. Even in the losses they have displayed talent and heart, and it was only a matter of time before they ascended right back to where they belong in the win column. They faced Emmanuel College at home on Thursday, Nov. 29, but the game concluded too late to make this edition. The next test for the exuberant Cardinals is Saturday, Dec. 1 against Babson College in the Hockenbury Classic Tournament, hosted by Norwich University.