Loss to St. John's marks fifth straight for men's basketball

By Nate Wilson-Traisman

Flashback to Dec. 5:A riveting last-second win over St. Thomas had Macalester men’s basketball sitting pretty in first place atop the MIAC standings, at 3-0.

For the Scots, those memories couldn’t seem more distant. Since that win, Macalester is 1-13 in MIAC play, their two most recent games resulting in an 81-64 loss versus St. Olaf and an 82-69 loss versus St. John’s.

Tom Conboy ’08 paced the Scots with 27 points versus St. Olaf, becoming the first Scot to eclipse the 1,800-career point total. Conboy now has 1,819 career points. Still, Conboy’s record-setting season hasn’t translated into wins.

“As competitive as I am, losing is always tough,” Conboy said. “I have never been too concerned with expectations, and am not exactly sure what was expected of our team. I have always tried to focus on improving regardless of the situation I face individually or our team faces at a given time.”

Macalester looked to snap their four-game skid Wednesday versus St. John’s, but came up short, losing 82-69.

“I think it’s safe to say that no one on this team expected that we would be 4-12 after a 3-0 start,” Abe Woldeslassie ’08 said. “To be a senior and realize that I’m not going to be able to represent
Macalester in the playoffs is something that bothers me very much.”

Macalester’s struggles were most apparent in their eight-game conference-losing streak that followed their win versus St. Thomas. The Scots have allowed over 80 points in eight of their 12 losses since that game, the worst of which was a 100-48 drubbing in their rematch against the Tommies, who currently lead the MIAC.

“Although we have shown the ability to play strong defense at times, our defensive intensity over the course of a game has been very poor,” Woldeslassie said.

To the average basketball fan, one might look at individual Scot statistics and be very surprised by their poor record. Macalester has two of the top four scorers in the MIAC: in Conboy (23.4 points per game) and Woldeslassie (19.3 ppg), and posts the league’s top rebounder in Conboy (10.8 pg).

“Our statistics are skewed somewhat by playing faster than most teams in an effort to take advantage of Abe’s unique talents, which are best manifested in the open court,” head coach Curt Kietzer said. “The result is more scoring opportunities for both teams, accounting on the one hand for some impressive scoring numbers, and on the flip side for some rather unimpressive defensive numbers.”

The defensive stats Kietzer alluded to, as well as the overall team stats, have been far from good. Macalester is statistically the worst defensive rebounding team in the conference, averaging close to ten rebounds less than their opponents per game. Additionally, the Scots’ opponents are shooting a whopping 50 percent from the field, which has translated into the third worst scoring defense in the conference.

On the offensive side, the Scots rank last in both free throw and three-point field goal percentages and are second to last in overall field goal percentage.

Nonetheless, Kietzer has been impressed with his young team’s ability to maintain its focus.

“It’s never easy to stay focused during a bad stretch in sports, so I have been very impressed that the guys have continued to come ready to compete and try to get better every day, both in practice and in games,” Kietzer said. “I feel fortunate to have a team of such strong character.”

Despite the season’s turn for the worse, sentiments and goals still remain relatively high among players, especially with the seniors who want something positive to take away at season’s end.

“A four-game winning streak to end the year would be nice,” Woldeslassie said. “Although we aren’t playing for the playoffs, winning these games would show that we are still committed to finishing the season on a high note. Five of the eight players in our rotation are freshmen or sophomores. Hopefully, these last four games can get them ready for their roles next year.”

Conboy also expressed a desire to leave his younger teammates with a good taste in their mouths.

“I hope to continue to improve individually and help my teammates improve as well,” Conboy said. “Hopefully I can instill an attitude in them that will help them to be successful in the future, in basketball or whatever else they choose to pursue.