By Peter McClelland
(Wenham) When they were good they were very, very good but when they were bad they were horrid.
Maybe that nursery rhyme wasn’t written after the author witnessed Gordon’s 66-56 win over visiting Curry on Saturday afternoon at the Bennett Center but it might have been.
“I think that was our best first half of this season,” explained Gordon coach Mike Schauer recalling his team’s 45 point first half featuring 17 for 25 shooting (68%) including 8 for 10 from 3-point range. “We jumped on a few teams here last year early like that.”
And while the Scots were cooking the Colonels were as cold as the single digit weather outside. Once Gordon switched into a matchup zone (two minutes in) the visitors got out of synch. No outside shooters could be found (How does 1 for 13 sound?) to force the Scots to try and keep up with the quick and athletic Colonels using a man-to-man defense.
“Gordon scouted us on Thursday night against Westfield State so they saw how we struggled when that team switched to a zone,” explained Curry coach Malcolm Wynn. “We were just too impatient to shoot from the outside and we weren’t hitting.”
After a steal and lay-up by Marcus Jones had Curry close at 11-10 six minutes into the half, Gordon put on a bunch of devastating runs that the Colonels had no answers for.
“I used to tell people that games aren’t won in the first half but after experiencing this one I’m not so sure,” said coach Wynn.
The Scots put together runs of seven, eight, and 17 straight unanswered points before the half was done and were cruising 45-19 as a result.
“I actually was nervous at halftime after looking at the stats,” said coach Schauer. “I knew that we couldn’t play much better and I suspected that they would become competitive.” He was right. Curry fell out of love with the long shot and started going to the boards aggressively at both ends.
They also turned up the defensive pressure. Gone went the open 3-point shot. In fact, Mike Herr made the only one for either team in the second half. For 10 ½ minutes the Scots had the energy to get to the basket to offset the points Curry started to put up. Up 63-35 it could have been a bench-clearing finish. But that’s not the way it went.
“We played very well for a good part of this game but really struggled to finish it off,” said coach Schauer in a significant understatement. Consider this: over the last 9 ½ minutes Gordon scored one basket (Mike Herr jumper) and one free throw (Alex Yeats). Meanwhile the Colonels collected 21 points including the last nine of the game. The Scots turned the ball over the last five times they had it. Fortunately, the zone defense was the difference maker. Curry was unable to score quickly and that big 28-point lead was enough to hold off the late surge.
“We attacked that zone defense a lot better in the second half,” said coach Wynn. “As far as the full man pressure goes we’ve been hesitant to use it because we’re such a young team but when you’re down 28 you have to reach for something. I told the team afterwards that the kind of defense we played late will win us future games.”
Coach Schauer was aware of the second half flaws. “We could have played better but I’m not going to complain much about a conference win.” The Scots are now 2-0 in the Commonwealth Coast Conference.
Hayes Murray was back at full strength after having a groin injury that kept him from playing in California and limited his minutes last game at Bates. He was one of five Scots (Ryan Smith, Scott Allenby, Alex Yeats, and Mike Herr) in double figures.
“Alex (Yeats) came up big inside but I was most pleased with Mike Herr,” said coach Schauer. “I really challenged him (Mike) after our game with Bates. I just felt that he wasn’t playing with enough passion.” His 11 points and 6 rebounds were significant in this win.
The bright spot for Curry was the huge improvement they made in the second half led by freshman Stephen Prescod (Lexington Christian Academy). “Wow, he had 16 points (all in the second half) to lead all scorers,” said coach Wynn afterwards.
The Colonels drop to 0-2 in the CCC.
Gordon is now 5-6 overall and will face arguably the top team in the CCC (Colby-Sawyer) at home on Tuesday evening. The students will be back from winter break and the Scots will need all the encouragement that they can provide to match the visiting Chargers.