c/o Steve McLaughlin Photography

c/o Steve McLaughlin Photography

From December 2022 to January 2023, Wesleyan men’s basketball won 11 straight games and cemented the second-best winning streak in the program’s 122-year history. The streak included some tough battles and some NESCAC triumphs, but more importantly, this series of victories demonstrated the Cardinals’ ability to dominate on the court.

The Cardinals started their season without some key players, such as captain and guard Preston Maccoux ’23 and guard Shane Regan ’25, both of whom were injured at the start of the season. The team had a rough first few games as a result, but through it all, they never lost hope.

Captain and guard Shackylle Dezonie ’23 elaborated on the team’s determination to push through the season despite difficulties in the first few games. 

“We always knew that we were going to get back to our winning ways, so it was just sticking with the process,” Dezonie said. “It’s such a long season, so you just have to keep pushing through, and after that, keep working hard and everything will take care of itself.”

Guard Gabe Ravetz ’23 echoed Dezonie’s sentiments about the start of the season.

“We started off the season rough, but it wasn’t that we felt discouraged or we felt like we didn’t have enough talent,” Ravetz said. “We knew we had the pieces, we just had to figure it out.”

And figure it out they did. After starting 2–5 for the season, the Cardinals did not lose a game for six weeks. The team knew that once everyone was healthy, there were few opponents who could stop them, and to say they were right would be an understatement. On Dec. 10, the Cardinals played Bridgewater State University (BSU) and won in a game that exemplified the resilience of the team.

The Cardinals’ comeback, one of the largest in program history, started with this single impressive win. The team went down early in the first half to BSU’s high-powered offense, which ranks in the top 20 in points per game in Division III. But the Red and Black refused to give in as they battled back and took the lead with seven seconds left in the first half. In the second half, it was more of the same as BSU went on a quick run and grabbed a double-digit lead. Again, as if to show it was not a fluke, the Red and Black clawed their way back into the game and took a lead with eight minutes left that they refused to relinquish, eventually winning 95-91. In terms of records, the team was still not where they wanted to be. However, this game showed them what a fully healthy Cardinals team could accomplish and set the expectations for the rest of the season.

Ravetz remembered the Bridgewater State game as a big turning point for the Cards.

c/o Steve McLaughlin Photography

c/o Steve McLaughlin Photography

“It’s funny, this is probably a game that most people won’t remember, but the Bridgewater State game was the first game of our win streak,” Ravetz said. “We were down about 15 points, and from there we were able to just come together and say, ‘All right, we’re just not gonna lose this game.’ We battled back and got the win, and that kind of gave us the confidence and reassurance [that] we have what it takes to actually compete and be an elite team. That was the beginning of the win streak, so I think that was a good moment for us, and the team, and for me personally as a leader in the team.”

Maccoux highlighted the confidence that this win inspired in the team. 

“Once you win one game, you get a little bit more and build upon it,” Maccoux said. “And luckily we were able to build upon it for 11 straight games. Coaching staff made a couple adjustments other than just guys coming back from injuries, and we really just rode with it, so just believing in [Head Coach Joe Reilly] and the decisions that he was making was really what led to that success.”

Coming back after a two-week winter break, the Cardinals were unstoppable, beating three NESCAC rivals—Amherst, Bowdoin, and Colby—in a row. Dezonie cited this trio of NESCAC wins as one of the best parts of the season.

“When we came back from break, I think we played Amherst first and then Bowdoin [and] Colby,” Dezonie said. “It was three straight NESCAC games. When we got back to conference play, our whole narrative switched to ‘We’re still the defending champs until someone takes that away from us.’”

Over the course of the 11 games, the Cards beat their opponents by an average of just over 10 points per game and defeated five different NESCAC teams (Amherst 57–54, Bowdoin 81–65, Colby 79–59, Conn. College 69–64, and Trinity 75–70) with huge postseason implications. They proved why they are the defending 2022 NESCAC Champions, and that they have more than enough talent to repeat their victory this year. We are now heading into the final weekend of the regular season, during which many of the NESCAC seedings will be determined. The Cards have two final NESCAC opponents (Tufts and Bates), whom they hope to beat to then advance to the three rounds of the NESCAC Championships.

Ravetz shared his thoughts on the closing season.

“It’s great to have a home game, at least in the first round, and if not, who cares,” Ravetz said. “I mean, everyone’s record resets that first weekend [of the playoffs], so it’s kind of our mentality, and I think a lot of guys are feeling the same way—that we have a talented team to make that three-game win streak, and we just gotta get over the line.”

The Cardinals have as talented a team as ever, and three playoff games seem like light work compared to 11 in a row. As Dezonie said, they are the defending champs until someone takes that away from them. If the Cardinals play to their full capabilities, no one will anytime soon.


Ethan Lee can be reached at ejlee@wesleyan.edu.

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