BJ Davis ’16 beat Williams in the game’s closing moments on Feb. 5 to extend men’s basketball’s winning streak to six games. However, the team could not keep that momentum going to finish the regular season, dropping both of its final two matchups on a weekend road trip to Maine.
In the first contest, the Cardinals took on Bowdoin and its star guard, Lucas Hausman. Despite Hausman’s renowned scoring prowess, it was first-year forward Jack Simonds who set the tone for Bowdoin, scoring 11 of the team’s first 13 points. In spite of Simonds’ efforts, Wesleyan looked unstoppable to begin the game, particularly on the offensive end. Davis, Nathan Krill ’18, and Joseph Kuo ’17 lead a balanced scoring attack, enabling the Cardinals to take a 24-13 lead.
After a Bowdoin timeout, the momentum shifted completely as the Polar Bears got hot from long distance. To cap the run, Matt Palecki hit a three that gave Bowdoin the 25-24 advantage. After the teams traded buckets for a few minutes, the home team was able to secure a 36-33 halftime lead.
Hausman and Simonds stayed hot after the break. A solid offensive effort led by Kevin O’Brien ’19 kept Wes in the game for as long as possible, but Bowdoin eventually extended its lead to a daunting 16-point margin nine minutes into the half. However, Wesleyan’s offense battled it out and a late run keyed by Harry Rafferty ’17 brought the margin back down to nine. But ultimately, the Cardinals could not hold off the scoring tandem of Hausman and Simonds, allowing the Polar Bears to clinch an 80-71 victory.
The teams’ levels of offensive balance starkly opposed one another. Hausman and Simonds combined for 52 points, while the next highest Bowdoin scorer tallied just eight points. Meanwhile, four Cardinals reached double-digits, led by 12 from Davis and Kuo and 10 from Krill and Rafferty. Krill also grabbed 12 rebounds, matching his season high.
The following day’s tilt with Colby followed a similar arc. Kuo and Jack Mackey ’16 looked unstoppable early as Wesleyan raced out to a 15-6 lead. This lead was smashed when Colby forward Patrick Stewart caught fire from three-point land. With nine minutes remaining in the half, a trey from Stewart gave the Mules the 20-19 advantage. The score stayed close for the remainder of the half, with Colby opening up a slight 36-31 lead at the close of the half.
Colby guard Luke Westman quickly found a great rhythm with his 6’8” teammate Chris Hudnut. Meanwhile, Wesleyan’s shooters couldn’t find their stroke, missing on several attempts from deep as Colby shot to a 14 point lead with just seven minutes to play. The Cardinals finally figured out how to tighten up their defense, but it proved to be too little too late, as the Mules rolled to a 73-64 victory.
Stewart, Hudnut, and Westman accounted for the majority of Colby’s points, scoring 20, 19, and 13, respectively. Hudnut also pulled in a monster 15 rebounds, 13 of which from the defensive end. For Wesleyan, Davis again led the scoring with 14, while Kuo chipped in 12 and Mackey managed 10 to go along with his five assists. Joe Edmonds ’16 had one of his roughest games of the season, as the usually deadly sharpshooter missed all seven of his three-point attempts. The team as a whole shot a disappointing 21% from long distance.
Despite the numbers, Mackey did not seem discouraged. He expressed confidence in his team’s strategy and ability to recover quickly from its poor weekend.
“We just couldn’t find a rhythm on either end of the floor,” said Mackey. “We just have to get back to basics during practice and everything will work itself out.”
With the pair of losses, the team drops to 5th place in the NESCAC, which means that it will likely have to play the entirety of the upcoming NESCAC tournament on the road. The squad first kicks off its attempt at a repeat championship by traveling to Middlebury on Saturday. The Cardinals were defeated by the Panthers for their first conference game of the season at 86-76. The last time that Wesleyan traveled to Vermont for a postseason matchup, Middlebury took care of the Redbirds, 61-49.
Mackey was equally confident when asked if the team was intimidated by its upcoming slate of road games.
“Not for us,” he said. “We have been here before; we won five straight road games last year to win the NESCAC. We have always put out our best efforts when the deck is stacked against us. We are looking forward to the away-gym atmosphere. Wes hasn’t beaten Middlebury since 2004; no better time to break that streak than now.”