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The new year has brought a new portion of the basketball schedule to St. Catharine College as the Patriot teams have jumped into Mid-South Conference action. And the jump hasn’t been real pleasant for either J.T. Burton’s men or Lena Bramblett’s women.
Last week the Patriot men, after winning a big non-conference game to begin the new semester, dropped two decisions in the MSC. Meanwhile, the women, trying to overcome some key injuries, lost a non-conference contest before splitting a pair of games to open the conference schedule.
For Burton’s Patriots, the week’s action is a good indication of the strength of the Mid-South Conference. After beating the nation’s eighth-ranked team, Southern Polytechnic State University, by 17 points at home, St. Catharine fell at West Virginia Tech and then lost at home to the University of the Cumberlands, both conference games.
“We beat them (Southern Poly) by 17 after being off for three weeks, and you think we are really rolling,” said Burton. “Then you get in the conference where everybody has scouted you, everybody knows what you are going to do, and it is really tough.”
Ervin Williams led three players in double figures when the Patriots beat the visiting Hornets 81-64 last Tuesday. Brandon Johnson and Arthur Latham added 20 and 14 points respectively.
But then came two conference games that were foul fests resulting in two Patriot losses as their record dipped to 12-6 overall. In the two conference games, at West Virginia Tech on Thursday and at home Saturday against Cumberlands, the Patriots were whistled for a total of 66 fouls.
“I really didn’t think we got any breaks at Tech, but against Cumberlands we just fouled a lot,” added Burton.
The Patriots lost 98-86 at West Virginia Tech as the Golden Bears sank 30 free throws in 47 attempts, while the Patriots were 14-30 from the line. Williams, Latham and Johnson all had 19 points and Kris Caufield had 11 in the loss.
In Saturday’s loss to Cumberlands, the Patriots shot just 22 percent in the first half and trailed 32-19. They did draw within five points in the second half, but could get no closer as the visitors pulled away for a 66-51 win. Latham and Williams had 16 and 10 points respectively.
“We just didn’t make good decisions in the first half and didn’t execute in the half-court,” concluded Burton.
With the 1-2 week, Bramblett’s Patriots fell to 7-11 for the season. St. Catharine led 29-28 at halftime of Tuesday’s game at Ohio Dominican, but saw the home team use a 7-0 run to start the second half en route to a 77-59 decision. The Patriots bounced back with a 68-45 win in the conference opener at West Virginia Tech, but lost Saturday to visiting Cumberlands 72-42.
“We have to have a collective effort to win, and we are not getting that,” said Bramblett. “We can’t have one or two players show up each game and expect to win.”
Injuries have kept some players from showing up at all. Sophomore forward Courtney Milam was already sidelined for the season due to a knee injury before Christmas, and then another forward/center, junior Danielle Brown, suffered a shoulder injury against Cumberlands and will be out indefinitely. Those injuries came after guards Iona Caulder and Erin Rogers were just getting back to the court following earlier injuries.
“That is all part of it,” said Bramblett. “We just have to have every player we have show up and be ready to play every game.”
Four players showed up in double figures in the win at West Virginia Tech. Sa’de Mullins led the scoring with 14 points. Rogers and Brown had 13 each and Brittany Darden scored 12.
In Saturday’s loss Darden led the Patriots with 17 points and Jennica Garitty added 11. But it was the Patriots’ board work that was decisive in this game, according to Bramblett. “We allowed them 21 offensive rebounds and we only got 22 total rebounds. You won’t win games like that.”
Both the Patriot men and women hope to win conference games this week as they hit the road for two games. Thursday they play at the University of Rio Grande in Ohio and Saturday they travel to Pikeville. The teams return home Thursday, Jan. 28 to face conference foe Georgetown.