Men’s Basketball Slowly but Surely Moves the Dial

Junior+Kyle+Bernhard+attacks+the+paint+against+St.+Olaf.+Photo+courtesey+of+Anders+Voss+%E2%80%9816.+

Junior Kyle Bernhard attacks the paint against St. Olaf. Photo courtesey of Anders Voss ‘16.

While the 2014-15 season has been typically turbulent for Macalester’s Men’s Basketball team, this year’s squad is beginning to show promise.

The Scots have not qualified for the MIAC postseason tournament, which requires a top four record in MIAC play, since 2003-04. Still, their increasingly smooth play and a new conference rule that sends the top six teams to the playoffs suggest that the program is heading in the right direction, albeit more slowly than some fans might have hoped.

Macalester (5-13 Overall; 2-11 MIAC) has not finished January with as many as five wins since 2007-08. With three wins during the month of January, the Scots’ play has grown stronger as the season has worn on. Sixth-year head coach Tim Whittle found a more effective rotation midway through the season by switching junior guard Kyle Bernhard into the starting lineup in place of sophomore Sager Moritzky.

Junior Kyle Bernhard attacks the paint against St. Olaf. Photo courtesey of Anders Voss ‘16.
Junior Kyle Bernhard attacks the paint against St. Olaf. Photo courtesey of Anders Voss ‘16.

Offensively, Macalester is led by center Kareem Ismail. The 6’5” sophomore paces the team in both points (13.6) and rebounds (6.6) per game. Although Ismail struggled at the outset of conference play, he has performed much better of late. Last Saturday, Ismail posted 20 points (7-for-11) and 8 rebounds in a loss to Concordia-Moorhead.

Macalester’s leading scorer from a season ago, junior guard Dylan Kilgour, has seen his scoring drop from 13.8 ppg his sophomore campaign to just 10.1 this year. Those statistics, however, are misleading if taken at face value.

Kilgour is shooting far less frequently this year, as opposing teams frequently double team him out of respect for his scoring ability. Kilgour is still scoring as efficiently as before: his shooting percentage, 42%, is identical to his 2013-14 mark.

Seniors Bert Yaffe and Hans Erickson round out the starting five. Although neither has made a tremendous statistical impact, their presence as stabilizing forces is essential for the Scots. The team’s play hinges on their ability to reduce turnovers, play defensive, and make good passes.

So far, the pinnacle of the Scots’ season was a 57-49 overtime victory over rival Carleton at the Leonard Center on January 24th. Trailing for much of the game, Macalester rallied in the second half to force the additional period.

Bernhard sank two clutch deep three-pointers in the final two minutes of the extra frame to seal the game for the Scots. Bernhard had 16 points in the game, tying his season high, and shot four for seven from beyond the arc.

Although the Scots have been playing decent basketball, the final portion of their schedule is perhaps their toughest stretch of the year. Of their seven remaining games, three of them—Augsburg, St. Thomas, and Gustavus Adolphus—represent three of last year’s four MIAC playoff qualifiers, though Macalester will play all three at home. In addition, the Scots will also travel to Arden Hills to face a Bethel squad that is currently tied for fourth place in the conference.

In the coming weeks, strong opponents will test Macalester, but games against Hamline and at St. Mary’s, fellow bottom-dwellers, will be winnable for the Scots. Macalester needs just one more win to guarantee their best record since 2007-08.

For this rebuilding program, that type of improvement would be welcome.

The Scots next take the court on Saturday, February 7, when they host Hamline at the Leonard Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 3p.m.