Friday, February 22, 2013

SHOUP SHOTS: Why did the basketball teams struggle?

by Nathan Shoup, Sports Editor

    Well, this is awkward. There are no PLU basketball games this weekend. After three months of Lute basketball – it is over.
Senior Cameron Schilling wrestles for the ball during the Lutes’ 55-50 season-ending loss to Lewis and Clark. Schilling was named Second Team All-NWC. He led the team in scoring (15.3 points per game) and rebounding (7.7 per game). Photo by Heather Perry.

    The men’s and women’s basketball teams wrapped up their 2012-2013 seasons last weekend against George Fox and Lewis and Clark.

    The men (8-17, 6-10) finished in sixth place in the Northwest Conference (NWC) and the women (6-17, 3-13) finished in seventh place in the NWC.

    With a combined record of 14-34, what went wrong?

Men’s basketball

    The Lutes lost career program assists leader James Conti to graduation last year, and it cost them.

    Head coach Steve Dickerson experimented with the point guard position all season, and the offense never formed an identity.

    Last season, the offense ran completely through Conti. The shifty point guard could penetrate defenses and create his own shot or hit an open shooter after drawing extra defenders.

    Conti was also the team’s leading scorer, scoring just under 14 points a game.

    That is not to say the Lutes didn’t have solid pieces in place this year, because they did.

    Senior Cameron Schilling made a push for First Team All-NWC honors scoring 15.3 points per game (seventh in NWC) and grabbing 7.7 rebounds per game (third in NWC).

    Seniors Andrew Earnest and Cam Reister provided an intimidating three-point threat. Earnest shot 43.1 percent from behind the arc (fourth in NWC) while Reister shot 31.4 percent (20th in NWC).

    As a team, the Lutes shot a .422 from deep. That was significantly improved from the .386 clip the team shot at last year.

    First-year post Bryce Miller had the third most starts on the team (21) averaging 4.6 rebounds per game (second on team) and scoring 6.4 points per game (fourth on team).

    The team was better than its record showed, but they were a James Conti short of advancing to the NWC Tournament. The top four teams in the conference advance to that tournament.

    Each of the Lutes’ final five conference losses were by six points or fewer. If they found a way to win five of those games, they would likely be playing in the NWC Tournament this weekend.

    The 2012-2013 men’s basketball team was formidable, but Conti left an irreplaceable crater in the Lute’s lineup.

    Schilling, Earnest and Reister are joining Conti in the alumni category next year. The 10 underclassmen on the roster will be needed.

Women’s basketball

    For the third consecutive season, the women’s basketball team finished in the bottom third of the Northwest Conference.

    The struggles for the 2012-2013 women’s basketball were highlighted by youth – the team didn’t have a senior – and by a lack of weapons – the team finished seventh in the conference in scoring (52.2 points per game).

    Not scoring many points can pass if the team plays solid defense, but that was not the case. The Lutes were also seventh in the conference in scoring defense. Opponents scored more than 65 points per contest.

    When the team is scoring just more than 52 points per game and allowing 65 points per game, it is going to be a long season – and it was. The Lutes started the season on a six-game losing streak and finished the season on a 10-game losing skid.

    A blaring sign of youth on a basketball team is turnovers, and the Lutes turned the ball over almost 19 times a game. Only Willamette was worse in the conference.

    Junior Samantha Potter was a bright spot for the Lutes, scoring 13.4 points (fourth in the conference) and grabbing nine rebounds (second in the conference) per game.

    Six of the 11 players on the Lutes’ roster this season were first years.

Victory lap

    On Tuesday, Schilling was named Second Team All-NWC. Last year he was named to the Honorable Mention team.

    A strong case certainly could have been made for Schilling to join the first team. He finished seventh in the conference in scoring and third in rebounds.

    “I was definitely hoping in the back of my mind that I would make first team because of the individual success I had,” Schilling said. “A lot of the league voting stems from team success too, and most of the guys, if not all of them, that are on first team play for playoff teams.”

    Five of the six players named to the first team are on playoff teams.