This past Saturday, the Cards pulled away to defeat Conn College in a tough away game, pushing their NESCAC win percentage past .500 for the first time this season. As the season draws to an end, the team vies to get an edge in a competitive conference.
The first half of the game stayed close. At the 11:15 mark, Wes managed to break away with an eleven-point run, but the Camels fought back, managing to tie the score at 25-25 with 4:01 remaining. The Cards finished the first half with a small lead of 34-31.
Mirroring the first half, the second half started with the Camels trailing by a narrow margin. Around 11 minutes in, Wes took off with another 11-point run. Conn College rallied again, however, to dominate over the next 20 points and take the lead at 3:14, 71-69.
Wesleyan responded with eight unanswered points capped off by a Jordan Bonner ’19 three to reclaim the lead at 77-71. With 1:07 remaining, the Camels couldn’t recover, and Wes claimed victory 85-75.
Team captain Harry Rafferty ’17 commented on this key victory.
“It was a gutsy team win,” said Rafferty. “Connecticut College is a very good team, and their gym is a tough place to play, so for us to come out of there with a big road win was an awesome response by our team.”
Kevin McDonald ’20 echoed the same sentiment, emphasizing their recent success on the road win.
“Coming into the game, we had momentum after a big road win at Bates the weekend prior,” he said. “Conn is a tough team to beat but Coach [Joe] Reilly prepared us well going into the game. I thought we executed great and stuck to our identity of playing fast and being the tougher team all around.”
McDonald also highlighted Wesleyan’s key run to clinch the lead at the end of the game.
“After we had been up the whole game, Conn took the lead with about three minutes left,” said McDonald. “I thought we showed a lot of mental toughness by retaking the lead behind huge plays from Joseph Kuo [’17] and Harry Rafferty. Jordan Bonner hit a tough three to ice the game as well.”
Bonner has proved to be a critical player after returning from a knee injury. He led the Wes offense in the game with twenty-three points.
Head coach Joe Reilly discussed how Wes managed to win without Salim Green ’19, perhaps the team’s top defensive wing.
“[It was a] great road victory for our team,” said Reilly. “It is difficult to have starter and defensive stopper Salim Green out with a concussion but other players really stepped up. Joseph Kuo had a very efficient offensive game and we are excited that Jordan Bonner has recovered from his knee surgery and has been getting his rhythm back. We will need more guys stepping up for Williams this weekend. We are looking forward to a strong finish to the regular season–as always the NESCAC is extremely strong this year.”
The NESCAC’s tight standings, in which less than a game decides positions two through six, mean that anything could happen heading into the last leg of the season. As a team that entered last year’s NESCAC tournament with a lower seed, the team knows the value of finishing among the top three teams in the conference.
Kuo remembers how this part of the season went last year and looks for redemption.
“Last year we were in a good spot during this time of year and we made some mistakes,” said Kuo. “I think there is an extra sense of urgency this year. We’ve done the work thus far so we just have to keep focused so we can get what we deserve come playoff time.”
Wesleyan will next play away, tonight, Feb. 3, at Williams. The Cards already beat their Little Three rival earlier this season, 72-62, in an out-of-conference game, but will now replay the team in a NESCAC game. The team will then seek another win at Amherst this season on Feb. 7.
Ultimately, the team is happy to have stayed competitive by beating Conn College but seeks to carry this win into the final four games of regular season play.
“I think we’ll use that game as motivation going into the last two weekends of league play as we showed ourselves we can beat just about anybody on the road,” McDonald said.