Monday afternoon at Sharp Gym, the HBU Huskies men’s basketball squad will close out the symbolic first half of their 2012-13 season with a 2:00 p.m. game against the Army Black Knights.
And the Huskies hope that the experience they’ve gained in recent games–though sometimes painful to endure–will help them finish the year with a big win on their home floor.
HBU (4-8) is most recently coming off a hard-fought 75-58 loss to LSU (8-2) at the Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge on Friday night in a contest that head coach Ron Cottrell said he thought might pay dividends in the near future.
“We didn’t show up and play the best game we can play, but we showed up to compete,” Cottrell said of his team’s effort against the Tigers. “Our guys really competed hard tonight and I think they stepped up to the challenge.”
“Every time LSU tried to make a run and put us away,” the coach said in his postgame assessment, “we made a run and kind of got back in it to make it interesting.”
The Huskies were led by sophomore guard Tyler Russell, who scored 15 points, and freshman wing Caleb Crayton, who added 11 points in his first start of his college career.
It was the sixth consecutive road loss to start the season—and seventh in the last eight games overall—for the Huskies and the latest against foes like Hawai’i, UT-Arlington and Oregon that have had more size and game experience than the HBU squad.
It was also the third game that the Huskies played since losing senior forward and key offensive contributor Marcus Davis for the season due to academic reasons.
In spite of the losses and the shuffling of their lineup over the recent games, Cottrell expressed his feeling that the benefits were yet to be seen for his team.
“You can’t replace what you learn in these kinds of games,” Cottrell stated recently. “There’s no way to mimic it and there’s no way to talk the guys through what they’re going to see till they get out there and actually experience it.”
The coach made it clear that his team, largely composed of freshmen and sophomores, is still learning how to win at the NCAA Division 1 level.
“What we see in practice every day are guys who want to do the right thing, who want to work hard and want to be successful, but sometimes don’t quite know how to bring that success to the game,” he said.
But Cottrell also believes that success isn’t too far away.
“I think these guys are on the verge of being very good,” the coach, in his 22nd season at the helm of the program, stated. “I think they have the desire to be very good and the work ethic to do great things, but it’s so much of a learning experience.”
The coach feels like the team may be about to turn the corner and hopes that the game against Army might be the start of that change of direction.
“We talked about the Army game in the locker room (after the LSU game) and tried to get (the team) focused on (the fact that) we’re going to be at home on Monday afternoon, on a pretty short turnaround,” Cottrell said Friday night in Baton Rouge.
Army (6-6) will be finishing up a two-game Texas road trip on Monday afternoon. The game wraps up a stretch of four road outings in a six-game stretch over the past three weeks.
The Black Knights are coming off a 61-55 loss at Texas A&M on Saturday. Army held the Aggies without a field goal during the final 4:34, but the Aggies scored eight points from the free throw line to complete a comeback win.
Freshman Kyle Wilson led the Black Knights with 15 points off the bench, while classmate Kyle Toth added 13 points. Army’s freshman scored 39 of the team’s 55 points on Saturday.
The Black Knights are a team with a distinct Texas influence. Eight of Army’s 19 players that will be in uniform on Monday hail from the state, including Houstonians Ella Ellis (Eisenhower), Michael Felton (Strake Jesuit) and Milton Washington (Waltrip) along with junior Cartavious Kincade from Baytown Sterling.
Ellis, a senior who is among the academy’s top-20 all-time scoring leaders, leads the Black Knights with 17.3 points per game and 4.4 rebounds per game.
Kincade and Washington, who is a sophomore, have both seen limited action this season, each playing in three games, while the sophomore Felton has yet to see floor time for the Black Knights.
The Huskies expect those Black Knights to be fired up about the opportunity to play so close to home and expects his team to come out with equal enthusiasm.
“We’ve got to get excited about playing at home and a good opponent coming in to Sharp Gym,” he stated, “and we need to play the best we can play on Monday afternoon.”
Tickets for the game can be purchased at the door. The live game broadcast can be seen and heard at Husky Sports powered by the Legacy Sports Network.